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Brainstem Stroke: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Brainstem Stroke

The brainstem is the nervous system tissue located beneath the cerebrum and directly above the spinal cord. It is partially responsible for controlling certain involuntary bodily functions, such as breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure. The nerves used for eye movement, chewing, hearing, talking, and swallowing are also controlled by this part of the brain, making it essential to survival.

Similar to heart attack and stroke, a brainstem stroke occurs when blood flow to the tissue is obstructed or interrupted. If blood is unable to reach the tissue, the cells cannot be oxygenated and quickly die. If the brainstem cannot function properly due to dead or damaged tissue, involuntary bodily functions can no longer be regulated, resulting in death.

There are two main types of brainstem stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. The most common form is ischemic stroke, which is caused by the obstruction of a blood vessel that supplies oxygen to the brainstem. The hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a burst blood vessel, leading to bleeding and pressure in the brain.

To treat a brainstem stroke, the type of stroke must first be identified using diagnostic imaging technology. A CT scan or MRI may be used to image the brain and detect the cause of the stroke. Once the condition has been diagnosed, medications or surgery will be indicated to alleviate the symptoms and reduce damage to the tissue.

The symptoms of brainstem stroke are often sudden and severe and include the following:

  • Hearing loss
  • Problems with vital functions, such as breathing
  • Problems with sensation
  • Weakness or paralysis in the face, legs, and/or arms
  • Difficulty chewing, speaking, or swallowing
  • Vision problems
  • A feeling of spinning when not moving (vertigo)
  • Coma
  • ‘Locked-in syndrome’ (when only the eyes are able to be moved)

If you or another person experiences these symptoms, consider seeking emergency medical assistance immediately. Regional Medical Center of San Jose's Joint Commissioned Certified Primary Stroke Center is dedicated to providing patients with the emergency stroke care that they need. To learn more about us and our services, visit our website or contact us at (408) 259-4000.

Behind the Science - Cancer Prevention Guidelines

A recent study has shown that people who follow risk factor recommendations outlined down by the American Cancer Society, such as maintaining a healthy diet and limiting alcohol consumption, significantly reduce their risk of death from cancer. Learn more about this long-term study and how it affects you by watching the full clip.

At Regional Medical Center of San Jose, our team of cancer experts is dedicated to providing outstanding patient care. Our Cancer Care program provides patients access to the latest diagnostic and treatment options available. Learn more about our services by contacting us at (408) 259-4000.

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Medical Help

Can you recognize the symptoms of a heart attack? What is the difference between a left-side and right-side stroke? If you’re interested in more information on these topics and more, then check out the following resources or call Regional Medical Center of San Jose at (408) 259-4000.

  • Learn how to diagnose the symptoms of a heart attack with this link from the American Heart Association.
  • This link from the American College of Gastroenterology provides information on the causes and symptoms of heartburn.
  • Learn more about the different types of strokes with this article from the National Stroke Association.
  • Visit this link from Regional Medical Center of San Jose’s health content page for more information on right-side strokes.
  • Find out what makes a left-side stroke different from a right-side stroke with this health content page from Regional Medical Center of San Jose.
  • Check out this link for more information on the heart diagnostic tests available at Regional Medical Center of San Jose.
  • What is echocardiography? Find out with this article from the American Heart Association.
  • Learn why you may require a heart ultrasound with this article from the American Society of Echocardiography.
  • This link from the National Cancer Institute provides several statistics regarding breast cancer in the United States.
  • Do you know how to perform a self-breast exam? Learn how with this link from the American Cancer Society.

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