Glossary Of Terms Relating to Strokes


The Stroke Center
at Saint Francis

1400 Woodland St
Hartford, Connecticut 06105

The following is a glossary of terms relating to strokes. Some of the terminology you may have heard your physician mention.


A cognitive disability characterized by ignorance of or inability to acknowledge one side of the body or one side of the visual field.


A weak or thin spot on an artery wall that has 'stretched' out from the wall and filled with blood, or damage to an artery leading to pooling of blood between the layers of the blood vessel walls.


A state of almost no oxygen delivery to a cell, resulting in low energy production and possible death of the cell.


A drug therapy used to prevent the formation of blood clots that can become lodged in cerebral arteries and cause strokes.

Antiplatelet Agents

A type of anticoagulant drug therapy that prevents the formation of blood clots by preventing the accumulation of platelets that form the basis of blood clots; Common antiplatelets include aspirin.


A type of anticoagulant drug therapy that prevents the formation of blood clots by inhibiting the coagulating actions of the blood protein thrombin; Common antithrombotics include warfarin and heparin.


The inability to understand or create speech, writing, or language in general due to damage to the speech centers of the brain.


An obsolete term for a cerebral stroke, most often intracerebral hemorrhage that was applied to any condition that involved disorientation and/or paralysis.


A form of cell death involving shrinking of the cell and eventual disposal of the internal elements of the cell by the body's immune system.Apoptosis is an active, non-toxic form of cell suicide that does not induce an inflammatory response.


A movement disorder characterized by the inability to perform skilled movements, generally caused by damage to the areas of the brain responsible for voluntary movement.


An x-ray of the carotid artery taken when a special dye is injected into the artery.

Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

A congenital disorder characterized by a complex web of arteries and veins.


A blood vessel disease characterized by deposits of lipid material on the inside of the walls of large to medium-sized arteries.  The artery walls become thick, hard, brittle, and prone to breaking.

Atrial Fibrillation

Irregular beating of the left atrium, or left upper chamber, of the heart.

Blood-Brain Barrier

An elaborate network of supportive brain cells, called glia that surrounds blood vessels and protects neurons from the toxic effects of direct exposure to blood.

Carotid Artery

An artery located on either side of the neck that supplies the brain with blood.

Carotid Endarterectomy

Surgery used to remove fatty deposits from the carotid arteries.

Central Stroke Pain (central pain syndrome)

Pain caused by damage to an area in the thalamus. The pain is a mixture of sensations, including heat and cold, burning, tingling, numbness, and pain.

Cerebral Blood Flow (CBF)

The flow of blood through the arteries that lead to the brain, called the cerebrovascular system.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)

Clear fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.

Cerebrovascular Disease

A reduction in the supply of blood to the brain either by narrowing of the arteries through the buildup of plaque on the inside walls of the arteries due to a blood clot.


A waxy substance, produced naturally by the liver and also found in foods that circulates in the blood and helps maintain tissues and cell membranes.


Surgical procedure for treatment of brain aneurysms, involving clamping an aneurysm from a blood vessel, surgically removing the ballooned part of the blood vessel, and closing the opening in the artery wall.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

A series of cross-sectional x-rays of the brain and head; also called computerized axial tomography or CAT scan.


A commonly used anticoagulant, also known as warfarin.


Small, hormone-like proteins released by leukocytes, endothelial cells, and other cells to promote an inflammatory immune response to an injury.

Cytotoxic Edema

Influx of fluids and toxic chemicals into a cell causing the cell to become swollen.

Detachable Coil

A platinum coil that is inserted into an artery in the thigh and strung through the arteries to the site of an aneurysm.The coil is released into the aneurysm creating an immune response from the body.The body produces a blood clot inside the aneurysm, strengthening the artery walls and reducing the risk of rupture.

Duplex Doppler Ultrasound

A diagnostic imaging technique in which an image of an artery can be formed by bouncing sound waves off the moving blood in the artery and measuring the frequency changes of the echoes.


Trouble eating and swallowing.


The swelling of a cell that results from the influx of large amounts of water or fluid into the cell.

Embolic Stroke

A stroke caused by an embolus.


A free-roaming clot that typically forms in the heart.

Endothelial Wall

A flat layer of cells that make up the innermost lining of a blood vessel.

Extracranial/Intracranial (EC/IC) Bypass

A type of surgery that restores blood flow to a blood-deprived area of brain tissue by rerouting a healthy artery in the scalp to the area of brain tissue affected by a blocked artery.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

A type of imaging that measures increases in blood flow within the brain.


Also called neuroglia; supportive cells of the nervous system that make up the blood-brain barrier, provide nutrients and oxygen to the vital neurons, and protect the neurons from infection, toxicity, and trauma.


Also known as glutamic acid, an amino acid that acts as an stimulating neurotransmitter in the brain.


Weakness on one side of the body.


Paralysis on one side of the body.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Sudden bleeding into or around the brain.


A type of anticoagulant.

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)

Also known as the good cholesterol; a compound consisting of a lipid and a protein that carries a small percentage of the total cholesterol in the blood and deposits it in the liver.


A state of balance among fluids and chemicals in a cell, in tissues, or in the body.

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

High arterial blood pressure defined as a measurement greater than or equal to 140 mm/Hg systolic pressure over 90 mm/Hg diastolic pressure.


A state of decreased oxygen delivery to a cell which falls below normal levels.


An area of tissue that is dead or dying because of a loss of blood supply.


A sudden loss of blood supply to tissue, causing the formation of an infarct.

Intracerebral Hemorrhage

Occurs when a vessel within the brain leaks blood into the brain.


A loss of blood flow to tissue, caused by an obstruction of the blood vessel, usually in the form of a blood clot.

Ischemic Cascade

A series of events lasting for several hours to several days following initial ischemia.  This may result in extensive cell death and tissue damage beyond the area of tissue originally affected by the initial lack of blood flow.

Ischemic Penumbra

Areas of damaged, but still living, brain cells arranged in a patchwork pattern around areas of dead brain cells.

Ischemic Stroke

Ischemia in the tissues of the brain.

Lacunar Infarction

Occlusion of a small artery in the brain resulting in a small area of dead brain tissue, called a lacunar infarct; often caused by stenosis of the small arteries, called small vessel disease.

Large Vessel Disease

Stenosis in large arteries of the cerebrovascular system.


Blood proteins involved in the inflammatory immune response of the ischemic cascade.


Small globules of cholesterol covered by a layer of protein; produced by the liver.

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)

Also known as the bad cholesterol; a compound consisting of a lipid and a protein that carries the majority of the total cholesterol in the blood and deposits the excess along the inside of arterial walls.

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

An imaging technique involving injection of a contrast dye into a blood vessel.  Magnetic resonance techniques are used to create an image of the flowing blood through the vessel; often used to detect stenosis of the brain arteries inside the skull.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan

A type of imaging involving the use of magnetic fields to detect changes in the water content of tissues.


The energy producing organs of the cell.

Mitral Annular Calcification

A disease of the mitral valve of the heart.

Mitral Valve Stenosis

A disease of the mitral heart valve involving the buildup of plaque-like material on and around the valve.


A form of cell death resulting from anoxia or trauma.  This involves the release of toxic cellular material into the intercellular space, poisoning surrounding cells.


The main functional cell of the brain and nervous system, consisting of a cell body, an axon, and dendrites.

Neuroprotective Agents

Medications that protect the brain from secondary injury caused by stroke.

Oxygen-Free Radicals

Toxic chemicals released during the process of cellular respiration and released in excessive amounts during necrosis of a cell.


Fatty cholesterol deposits found along the inside of artery walls that lead to atherosclerosis and stenosis of the arteries.


The ability to be molded; in reference to the brain, the ability to adapt to injury.


Structures found in blood that are known primarily for their role in blood coagulation.


The number of cases of a disease in a population at any given point in time.

Recombinant Tissue Plasminogen Activator (rt-PA)

A thrombolytic, anti-clotting substance made naturally by the body.

Small Vessel Disease

A cerebrovascular disease defined by stenosis in small arteries of the brain.


Narrowing of an artery due to the buildup of plaque on the inside wall of the artery.

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Bleeding within the outer membranes of the brain into the clear fluid that surrounds the brain.


Drugs used to treat an acute ischemic stroke by dissolving the blood clot causing the stroke and restoring blood flow through the artery.


The formation of a blood clot in one of the cerebral arteries of the head or neck that stays attached to the artery wall until it grows large enough to block blood flow.

Thrombotic Stroke

A stroke caused by thrombosis.

Tissue Necrosis Factors

Chemicals released by leukocytes and other cells that cause secondary cell death during the inflammatory immune response associated with the ischemic cascade.

Total Serum Cholesterol

A combined measurement of a person's high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

A small magnetic current delivered to an area of the brain to promote plasticity and healing.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A short-lived stroke that lasts from a few minutes up to 24 hours; often called a mini-stroke.


Medications that increase blood flow to the brain by expanding blood vessels.


A dangerous side effect of subarachnoid hemorrhage in which the blood vessels in the subarachnoid space constrict erratically, cutting off blood flow.

Vertebral Artery

An artery on either side of the neck.


A commonly used anticoagulant, also known as Coumadin®.