If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, if someone has a silent stroke and there are not obvious physical symptoms, is it still considered a stroke. YES it is and it can cause permanent brain damage.
A silent stroke or mini stroke is a stroke that occurs without the common symptoms of an ‘overt’ stroke. We may be more familiar with this overt stroke which typically shows itself as weakness in one arm or speech problems. A recent Canadian study identified that these silent strokes are common in seniors after they have elective, non-cardiac surgery and double their risk of cognitive decline one year later; they are actually more common than overt strokes in surgery patients aged 65 and older. The study (which included 1114 participants) reviewed that this covert stroke occurred among seven percent of the study participants after non-cardiac surgery. The study reported that “these patients were also more likely to experience cognitive decline, delirium, overt stroke or a mini-stroke within one year, compared to patients who did not have a silent stroke.”
The key message is to understand the risks involved with elective surgery.
Some additional stroke information: Strokes are usually classified as either ischemic (loss of blood supply) or hemorrhagic (bleeding in the brain) and are usually caused by blockage of an artery in the brain. Symptoms may include numbness, weakness, tingling or vision loss or changes, confusion, trouble speaking, trouble understanding speech, vertigo and balance problems.
Remember FAST if you think someone might be having a stroke:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 9-1-1