Types of Stroke

Strokes occur when the brain doesn’t get the blood and oxygen it needs. This is due to a blocked or burst blood vessel. Knowing the type of stroke is critical in providing fast, timely care.

As the state's only Primary Stroke Center, UNM Health offers the most advanced stroke treatment and care. To diagnosis a stroke, our neurologists may use one of the following tests:

  • Carotid ultrasound shows blockages in blood vessels in the neck and base of the brain.
  • CT scan takes X-ray images from different points around your head.
  • CT angiography uses a dye to show the brain’s blood vessels.
  • MRI uses a powerful magnet to take pictures of the brain and its blood vessels.

Once we identify the type of stroke, our neurocritical team will provide advanced treatment to achieve the best possible outcome.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

TIAs happen when a clot temporarily blocks blood flow to the brain, then quickly dissolves. This is known as a warning stroke, or mini stroke. TIAs usually do not cause permanent damage but can be life-threatening. Call 911 if you notice any signs of a stroke.

Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked by a clot or a buildup of plaque and other fatty deposits. The blockage causes the brain cells to less oxygen. There are two treatment options to treat ischemic strokes:

  • Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) – This clot-busting medication restores blood flow to the brain. It must be administered within three hours of the start of stroke symptoms. At UNM Hospital, 92% of ischemic stroke patients get clot-dissolving medication within three hours, compared to the state average of 70% and national average of 83%.
  • Endovascular thrombectomy – This procedure restores blood flow by using a tiny device to remove blood clots that caused the stroke. The advanced procedure is available to New Mexicans 24/7 only at UNMH. Treatment can begin up to six hours after stroke symptoms begin, allowing more time to airlift patients to UNMH from outside Albuquerque.

Learn more about ischemic strokes: English [PDF], Spanish [PDF], Vietnamese [PDF].

Hemorrhagic Stroke

These strokes happen when a weakened blood vessel bursts, leaking blood into the brain. There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke:

  • Intracerebral hemorrhage—Blood leaks directly into the brain tissue.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage—Bleeding happens in between the brain and skull.

Your doctors may use one of the following treatment techniques:

  • Aneurysm clipping places a metal clip at the base of the burst blood vessel to seal it.
  • Coil embolization uses a catheter (thin, flexible tube) to place a coil into the vessel, causing a blood clot to form. The clot blocks blood flow to the broken vessel to prevent another rupture.
  • Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) repair removes or shrinks a tangle of blood vessels (an AVM) or blocks blood flow to it.

Learn more about hemorrhagic strokes: English [PDF], Spanish [PDF], Vietnamese [PDF].