Skip to Content


UPMC Content 3

What is a Stroke?

Stroke is the leading cause of disability among adults in U.S.  and also is one of the top four causes of death. Although strokes may occur with little or no warning, people can benefit from treatment and prevention of future strokes by the experts at UPMC.

Types of stroke

There are two types of stroke:

  • Ischemic
  • Hemorrhagic

Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. The clot can form in an already narrow artery (thrombotic stroke) or travel to a narrow artery in the brain from another blood vessel in the brain or body (cerebral embolism or embolic stroke).

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood to leak into the brain.

Stroke treatment at UPMC

UPMC’s neurosurgery and neurology stroke experts are among the national leaders in stroke therapy. Neurosurgeons employ a team-based approach to achieve the best possible outcomes for stroke patients.

We offer advanced or investigational stroke therapies that are not widely available, such as:

Diagnosing a Stroke

Stroke symptoms usually develop suddenly and without warning. Depending on which parts of the brain were affected by the stroke, they may:

  • Be severe and fade
  • Start mild and worsen
  • Occur off and on

If you suspect you or someone else is displaying symptoms of a stroke, call for help immediately. For every hour’s delay in medical treatment, the brain loses approximately 120 million cells.

Some people experience a “warning stroke” or transient ischemic attack (TIA). These are symptoms of a stroke that resolve completely, usually within hours. People who have had a TIA are at a significantly increased risk of having an actual stroke sometime in the near future.

Stroke Treatment

UPMC is among the world’s best multidisciplinary stroke centers, and when surgery is necessary the neurosurgery team is experienced in advanced treatments, including traditional and investigational approaches that are not widely available.

Intra-arterial thrombolytic treatment

Intra-arterial thrombolytic treatment utilizes a long tube threaded through a blood vessel and into the brain to deliver thrombolytic (clot-busting) drugs, such as tPA, directly to the site of a blood clot causing a stroke.

Stroke neurosurgery

Stroke neurosurgery concentrates on surgically bypassing and opening blocked vessels threatening the brain, as well as controlling bleeding in some types of hemorrhagic strokes.

In neural implantation for stroke — a minimally invasive, investigational treatment therapy first performed at UPMC — engineered nerve cells are placed in stroke-damaged areas of the brain in order to replace nerve cells killed by a stroke.

Mechanical thrombectomy using a stent retriever

Mechanical thrombectomy using a stent retriever is a groundbreaking stroke treatment pioneered by researchers at UPMC and other facilities worldwide. In the procedure, a catheter is threaded through the artery to the point of the clot. A stent is inserted into the catheter, which can trap and remove the clot.

Learn more about the mechanical thrombectomy procedure at the UPMC Stroke Institute.

Learn more about neurosurgical stroke intervention at UPMC.