What is a Brain Attack?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 March 2020
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A brain attack is a life threatening medical emergency caused by an interruption in the supply of blood. Also known as a stroke, a brain attack requires immediate medical treatment, and delay could lead to brain damage or death for the patient. Brain attacks can occur in people of all ages and all levels of fitness, and they may be associated with a range of medical conditions or appear independently, making it difficult to predict when someone is at risk for a stroke.

The term “brain attack” is meant to be reminiscent of “heart attack,” underscoring the urgency of this medical condition. People also use the term “cerebral infarction” to refer to a stroke. In all cases, the interruption in the supply of blood causes damage to the brain, which leads to neurological symptoms like paralysis, dizziness, confusion, and aphasia. The patient can also experience marked behavioral changes as a result of a brain attack.

In ischemic brain attacks, the damage is caused by clots in the blood vessels which supply the brain. The clots block the supply of blood, and can be caused by clotting disorders and venous abnormalities. Hemorrhagic brain attacks involve bleeding in the brain, and are often associated with head injuries and weak blood vessels. The risk of stroke is one reason why people with head injuries are monitored very closely for neurological symptoms.


As with a heart attack, the longer someone is left untreated, the more severe the damage will be, and the damage will be permanent for the patient. The symptoms of brain attack can vary, and if people suspect that a stroke may be occurring, they should promptly seek medical treatment. A neurologist would much rather see a patient who does not need treatment than see a patient after it is too late to help. Treatments can include the use of medications and surgery to correct the cause of the brain attack and prevent further damage.

People can also experience what is known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini stroke. In this type of brain attack, the patient experiences a momentary neurological disruption which may lead to confusion, aphasia, and other symptoms, before the patient returns to normal. While the patient may feel fine, he or she is actually at serious risk of experiencing a major stroke after a TIA, and people who develop stroke-like symptoms and then recover should most definitely see a neurologist for an examination and medical imaging studies.



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