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What is Hemorrhagic Stroke?

Front view of head and upper body showing carotid arteries and brain.
The carotids are large arteries that carry blood from the heart to the brain.

The brain needs a constant supply of blood to work. During a stroke, blood stops flowing to part of the brain. The affected area is damaged. Its functions are harmed or even lost. Most strokes are caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that supplies the brain (ischemic stroke). They can also occur if a blood vessel in the brain breaks open (ruptures). This is a hemorrhagic stroke.

From the heart to the brain

The heart is a pump. It sends oxygen-rich blood out through blood vessels called arteries. Carotid and vertebral arteries carry blood from the heart to the brain. Blood vessels in the brain carry oxygen-rich blood to brain tissue.

How a hemorrhagic stroke occurs

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. This lets blood spill into or build up in nearby brain tissue. The extra blood presses on those brain cells and can damage them or even cause them to die. Other brain cells die because their normal blood supply is cut off because of high pressure in the skull.

Cross section of ruptured artery in brain causing hemorrhagic stroke.
Blood from a ruptured artery puts pressure on the brain and damages brain cells.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.