What Is a Posterior Stroke?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.
The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.

A posterior stroke is a disruption to the blood supply at the rear of the brain. This can lead to brain injury, as individual cells may be damaged by lack of oxygen and nutrients. Strokes can be caused by head injuries, chronic blood vessel disease, and a variety of other circumstances. Depending on the extent of the damage, a posterior stroke can make for easier recovery than an injury at the front of the brain. Severe injuries may be fatal if they are treated too late or are too extensive for treatment.

A posterior stroke is a disruption to the blood supply at the rear of the brain.
A posterior stroke is a disruption to the blood supply at the rear of the brain.

This condition involves the posterior cerebral artery, which supplies blood to the back of the brain. It branches through a number of tissues up into the midbrain. The artery may constrict, block, or rupture, cutting off the flow of blood to part of the brain. Patients can develop symptoms like tremors, difficulty balancing, and twitching eyes as brain cells die and motor control diminishes. They may also have headaches and swelling prior to onset of specific posterior stroke symptoms.

Treatment of posterior stroke involves determining the location of the damage and addressing it to stabilize the patient. Medical imaging studies can provide important context, as can a neurological examination to pinpoint specific cognitive deficits. The patient may need surgery to repair blood vessels or relieve pressure on the brain. After the stroke is resolved, rehabilitative therapy can be necessary to help the patient recover strength and functionality.

Some conditions can increase the risk of posterior stroke. It has been documented in the wake of mild brain injuries. This makes it important to monitor people with brain injuries until they are fully recovered. Initially, they may not have any symptoms of neurological impairment, which can mislead care providers into thinking they are not at risk. Older adults can also be at risk, particularly if they have existing cardiovascular disease.

The sudden development of signs of cognitive impairment is a cause for concern, as it may be an indicator of stroke. People who have sudden memory or balance problems, cannot control their hands or eyes, or appear compromised in other ways may need medical treatment. It can be helpful to provide as much information as possible about the symptoms to help care providers determine what part of the brain is involved. Strokes in particular are subject to the “golden hour” of emergency practice, where care provided within one to two hours can make a significant different in patient outcomes.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.
      The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.
    • A posterior stroke is a disruption to the blood supply at the rear of the brain.
      A posterior stroke is a disruption to the blood supply at the rear of the brain.