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Blood clot in the head - symptoms, cause and therapy

Blood clot in the head - symptoms, cause and therapy


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Blood clot: these are the first signs!

A blood clot consists of clotted blood and is formed, for example, when injured. Blood clotting is vital to stop blood flow and prevent bleeding. But these “wound closures” can have fatal consequences if they clog blood vessels that supply vital organs with blood - such as in the head.

The most important facts - an overview

  • Blood clots consist of clotted blood.
  • While such clots are used to stop blood loss, they are fatal to the brain's arteries. If they clog blood channels here, the brain will no longer receive oxygen and there is a risk of a stroke.
  • A stroke is accompanied by paralysis, speech problems and movement disorders. In the event of these symptoms, those affected must seek medical help immediately, because every minute damages the brain more.
  • Blood clots in the head often end in death, many survivors suffer from damage to the most severe paralysis.

Symptoms

Blood clots in the brain can lead to a stroke. Symptoms include:

  • A sudden paralysis, usually on one side of the body,
  • lack of strength in legs and arms,
  • a one-sided feeling of numbness,
  • Visual disturbances,
  • disturbed balance,
  • Dizziness,
  • Speech disorders such as mumbling or loss of speech,
  • Loss of consciousness,
  • strong headache,
  • Uncertainty when walking and standing.

How severe are the symptoms?

The severity of the symptoms of a blood clot in the head depends on the region of the brain where the clot is located. If the symptoms mentioned occur, you must contact an emergency doctor or the emergency services immediately in any case.

However, not all blood clots in the head lead to a stroke. For example, short visual disturbances such as double vision or flickering of the eyes can occur even without a stroke (brain infarction). Even then, you should seek medical help immediately.

The F-A-S-T test

With the F-A-S-T test you can check whether it is a stroke.

  • F - Face: Here you ask the person concerned to smile. This is not possible with facial paralysis on one side.
  • A - Arms: Ask the patient to raise their arms at the same time. This shows whether the arms are paralyzed.
  • S - Speech: Let those affected speak simple sentences. A washed-out language speaks for a stroke.
  • T - Time: Call an emergency doctor immediately, even if there is little suspicion. Every minute counts.

Causes of blood clots

Blood clots develop in different ways. When injured, the body reacts to the stimulus. The blood vessels constrict to slow the flow of blood. The platelets become active in the damaged tissue - the platelets. These collect on the wound and form a graft that closes it. Proteins then harden the closure and protect the wound from bacteria, viruses, fungi and other soiling.

Injuries do not have to be external. Damaged inner walls of the vessels, for example with arteriosclerosis, can also stick to platelets.

Even without injury, these clots develop when blood flows slowly or builds up. As a result, platelets also accumulate and block the veins.

Heart defects and tumors

Heart defects promote blood clots - especially cardiac arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation. Here the blood is swirled so that blood clots can form, but not in the head, but in the atrium of the heart.

Tumors and congenital mutations cause the blood to clot too quickly and clump together.

Accidents

After fractures, operations and serious illnesses, those affected often move the corresponding part of the body less. Broken skulls or bone injuries to the cervical spine mean that we hardly lift, lower or turn our heads. This also breaks down the muscles that usually press the veins and thus transport the blood back to the heart.

If this muscle pressure is absent, the blood flows back more slowly and builds up in the veins. Now there is blood congestion, platelets and coagulant build up. A blood clot can form in the head here.

Furthermore, blood congestion in other parts of the body can lead to blood clots in the head. Parts of a thrombosis can come loose and travel through the bloodstream to the vessels that supply the head.

Aspirate the clot

A few years ago, a new procedure was established to remove dangerous blood clots from the head. It's called mechanical thrombectomy. In practice, this opens the closed vessel in nine out of ten patients. So-called stents collect the clots in a kind of basket. You kind of suck it in.

In Germany, these stents were originally intended to treat brain vessel sags. They are suitable for clots that block large brain arteries. The stent is a tiny device made of wire and presses the clot against the vessel wall. The clumped blood platelets migrate into the interior of the "basket" and are now pulled out "like a caught fish". The stent is pushed into the brain via a catheter.

The lysis therapy

This is the conventional therapy to get rid of a blood clot in the head. Here, a drug (recombinant tissue plasminogen activator) is passed through the corresponding vein into the bloodstream. The drug thins the blood, thereby dissolving the clot.

Local and systemic thrombolysis

How the lysis therapy can be used depends on the time. Systemic thrombolysis, in which the drug travels through the bloodstream, is possible up to four and a half hours after the start of the stroke. Local treatment, in which doctors push a catheter up to the blood clot and use the coagulant directly there, is still possible up to six hours after the attack.

Secondary prophylaxis

If you have a tendency to clot, secondary prophylaxis helps prevent this. If you are at greater risk, you should carry out this therapy for a lifetime. The best known drug for this is aspirin.

Surgery

A blood clot in the head can only be operated on in a few affected people. This operation is complex and risky. The tiniest mistakes can cause brain injuries and, depending on the location of the clot, can result in lifelong disabilities, from loss of speech to motor problems, paralysis, impaired consciousness or the loss of mental abilities.

In order to be operated on at all, the clot must be near larger vessels, otherwise surgeons cannot reach it.

Long-term consequences

Blood clots in the head can cause long-term damage. How big these are depends on the affected brain region and how long the area has not been supplied with blood. Ischemic attacks are comparatively harmless. Motor misfires occur here, but they recede after around 24 hours.

The disturbances when speaking and swallowing are more serious. These suffer around 70 percent of all those affected, and many of them persist in the long term. Defects in memory and concentration are often anchored in the long term. This also applies to paralysis.

Last but not least, new illnesses can arise from a stroke. This includes a certain form of epilepsy.

Course of the disease

The course of the disease is different in patients. If the therapy is successful, those affected almost always spend time in a rehabilitation clinic. Here, experts from different disciplines work together to make it possible for patients to get back into everyday life. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists train movements and coordination, speech therapists the disturbances in speaking and swallowing.

There is also psychological / psychotherapeutic help. A very common consequence of strokes is moderate to severe depression. Usually, those affected stay in a rehab clinic for four to six weeks.

Forecast

A blood clot in the head is serious business. The prognosis depends on the location of the event and the duration of the insufficient supply to the brain. Every fifth person dies in the first month after the stroke. Of the survivors, 50 percent suffer permanent damage of various degrees, such as speech disorders, paralysis or memory loss. Many need long-term care. The less brain mass was damaged, the better the chances of recovery (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Swell:

  • State Medical Association of Baden-Württemberg on stroke, (accessed August 6, 2019), Medical Association
  • Deutsche Gefäßliga e.V .: Thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, (accessed August 6, 2019), Vascular League
  • Deutscher Verlag für Gesundheitsinformation GmbH (DVFGI): Thrombectomy - Medical Experts, (accessed August 6, 2019), leadingmedicine
  • Neurologists and psychiatrists online: diagnosis of stroke, (accessed August 6, 2019), Link
  • German publisher for health information GmbH (DVFGI): thrombosis, (accessed August 6, 2019), phlebology-guide


Video: Blood Clots: When Pain Signals Venous Thromboembolism (May 2022).


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