Acute stroke: pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment

AACN Clin Issues. 2005 Oct-Dec;16(4):421-40; quiz 597-8. doi: 10.1097/00044067-200510000-00002.


Stroke, a neurologic event due to altered cerebral circulation, is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Risk factors for stroke include hypertension, family history, and diabetes mellitus. The subtypes of stroke are ischemia, infarction, and hemorrhage. Ischemia and infarction are the result of atherosclerotic development of thrombi and emboli. Decreased and/or absent cerebral circulation causes neuronal cellular injury and death. Intracerebral hemorrhage occurs from rupture of cerebral vessels often as the result of hypertension. Patient assessment and diagnosis include the use of computed tomography scans, magnetic resonance imaging, and the National Institute of Health Stroke Scale, and treatment depends on the etiology of the stroke. Thrombolytic therapy is the mainstay of treatment for thrombotic and embolic events. Current recommendations for future stroke care include the development of designated stroke centers. Directions for research in stroke treatment includes examining neuroprotective therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Brain Ischemia / complications
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / complications
  • Cerebral Infarction / complications
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Forecasting
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Hospitals, Special / trends
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Patient Selection
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prognosis
  • Recovery of Function
  • Research / trends
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stroke* / diagnosis
  • Stroke* / etiology
  • Stroke* / physiopathology
  • Stroke* / therapy
  • Thrombolytic Therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed