A stroke can be caused by either:

  • a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain or
  • a bleed in the brain caused by small bleeding blood vessels

1. Stroke due to blood vessel blockage

A blockage of a blood vessel in the brain causes a lack of oxygen to the surrounding brain tissues. This means the brain tissue can be damaged or dies.

2. Stroke due to blood vessel bleed

When blood vessels bleed in the brain this can also cause damage to surrounding tissues. A stroke caused by a bleed can be due to years of high blood pressure. It can also happen because of a bulge in the wall of a brain artery called an “aneurysm”. Abnormal connections between arteries and veins can also cause this kind of stroke.

Coming to ICU after a stroke

When a patient has a severe stroke they may need to come to the ICU. This is because severe strokes can cause breathing problems that cause a drop in level of consciousness. This means a breathing tube is required to help support the lungs. A severe stroke can also affect swallowing, speech and other bodily functions. Many patients need extra support for these things that can only be provided in ICU.

Treatments for stroke

The treatment for a stroke is different depending on:

  • the type of stroke
  • how severe the stroke is and
  • the parts of the brain affected by the stroke

Treatments for stroke caused by a blockage can involve strong medications to help break up the clot. Some people may require surgery to remove the clot.

Patients with a stroke caused by a bleeding vessel may need surgery to clip the arteries involved. Some patients may need surgical repair of an aneurysm or a vessel malformation.

Recovery from a stroke

For some people, recovery may be quick over days or even shorter. For many other people, recovery takes several months or longer. How much support people need after a stroke varies a lot. Some people require extra support services at home or an admission to a nursing home. Other people may be able to go home with just a small amount of follow-up therapy.

The National Stroke Association in the US* reports that after a stroke:

  • 10% of people will completely recover
  • 25% of people will recover with minor impairments
  • 40-60% of people will have moderate to severe impairments that require additional care
  • 10% of people will need admission to a nursing home


A multi-disciplinary team are involved with helping patients with rehabilitation after a stroke. This team includes medical staff, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. The rehabilitation team begin working with patients as soon as possible.

Things that will assist your recovery are:

  • eating healthy food
  • exercising
  • managing your blood pressure
  • managing your cholesterol levels
  • not smoking; and
  • limiting how much alcohol you drink

The neurologists will often prescribe some ongoing medications to help prevent further strokes.

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Related topics

External resources


  • *National Stroke Association US – (opens a new page)

This topic has been reviewed by an intensive care medicine specialist in July 2022.

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