Stroke is theleading cause of disability in the United States. Prompt medical treatment reduces the risk for irreversible complications and permanent disability. Complications may result from ischemic cascade or develop as a result of the patient becoming immobile or bedridden.
Complications that may occur within 72 hours of Stroke Disease include the following:
- Cerebral swelling (edema)
- Increased intracranial pressure (ICP)
- Intracerebral hemorrhage
Paralysis on one side of the body (hemiparesis) and speech problems may occur as a result of ischemic cascade. Complications that may develop gradually as a result of immobility caused by Stroke Disease include the following:
- Blood clots
- Fibrosis of connective tissue resulting in decreased mobility
Urinary tract infections (UTIs; if a catheter is required)
Life-threatening complications include:
- Increased pressure on the brain, which develops when the brain swells after a large Stroke Disease. Such swelling occurs quickly, becomes most severe within 3 to 5 days after the Stroke Disease, and can cause death. Pressure on the brain is more likely in people who have had a stroke caused by a bleeding blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke).
- Fever. This may make a person’s chance of recovery worse if the fever occurs at the same time as a Stroke Disease. Fever may be a sign of an infection, such as pneumonia or a urinary tract infection. Drugs that reduce fever (acetaminophen or aspirin) are often used. But if these do not work, a special blanket that circulates cool air or water may be needed.
- High blood sugar (glucose). This often occurs in people who have diabetes. Very high or low blood sugar immediately after a Stroke Disease interferes with proper brain cell function, increasing the risk of damage.
- Blood pressure changes. People who have a Stroke Disease usually will have higher blood pressure for at least 1 to 3 days after the Stroke Disease. This may represent an attempt by the body to increase blood flow to the part of the brain that is being affected by the stroke. Only very high blood pressure is treated. If it occurs, very high blood pressure usually is brought down slowly. A rapid drop in blood pressure can lead to more brain damage.
- Buildup of spinal fluid within the brain (hydrocephalus). Fluid on the brain is more likely to occur if the Stroke Disease was caused by bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke).
- Spasms of blood vessels (vasospasm). Vasospasm may occur if the Stroke Disease was caused by a subarachnoid hemorrhage from an aneurysm.
- A blood clot in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) that may travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).
- Another stroke.