What Happens During A Spinal Stroke?

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Spinal x-ray

A stroke is a medical condition in which the blood supply to the brain is cut off. This deprives the brain of oxygen and causes serious symptoms throughout the body. A stroke is a very serious medical event, but did you know that a brain stroke isn’t the only type of stroke that can occur? Some people suffer from the lesser known “spinal stroke.” In today’s blog, we take a closer look at what happens during a spinal stroke, and how doctors treat the condition.

The Causes and Symptoms Of A Spinal Stroke

Similar to a standard stroke, a spinal stroke occurs when the blood supply to the spinal cord is cut off. If your spinal cord doesn’t have a healthy blood supply, it can cause dysfunction in other parts of your body. However, a spinal stroke does not typically disrupt blood supply to the brain. Because it is such a unique type of stroke, their occurrence is very rare. Only about 1.25 percent of all strokes can be classified as a spinal stroke.

The most common cause of a spinal stroke is the development of a blood clot in the blood vessel, which blocks healthy blood flow throughout the area. Less commonly, the rupture of a blood vessel can cause a spinal stroke. Factors that can affect blood vessel size and strength that can increase a person’s risk of suffering a spinal stroke include smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle.

Symptoms of a spinal stroke can vary by person, but some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Sudden and extreme pain in the neck
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty moving
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Muscle weakness
  • Inhibited breathing
  • Paralysis

Treatment And Prognosis For Spinal Strokes

As with any stroke, prompt medical attention is the key to limiting the extent of the damage. The medical team will perform an exam and use imaging tests to confirm the presence and location of the blockage or bleed. In some cases, medications can help break up the clot and reduce the risk of future clots. Surgery may also be necessary to address the clot or vessel rupture.

The long term outlook for patients with spinal strokes will vary based on a number of different factors. However, the main goal is to work towards improving functional capacity and reducing the risk of future spinal strokes. This can be accomplished through a variety of treatment methods, including medication regimens, diet and lifestyle changes, quitting smoking, reaching a healthy weight and participating in physical or occupational therapy to increase range of motion and functional capacity in a person’s arms or legs.

For more information about spinal strokes, or to talk with a spine specialist about any back-related concerns you might have, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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