Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Prompt medical treatment reduces the risk for irreversible complications and permanent disability. Complications may result from ischemic cascade or develop as a result of the patient becoming immobile or bedridden.

Complications that may occur within 72 hours of stroke include the following:

  • Cerebral swelling (edema)
  • Increased intracranial pressure (ICP)
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage
  • Seizures

Paralysis on one side of the body (hemiparesis) and speech problems may occur as a result of ischemic cascade. Complications that may develop gradually as a result of immobility caused by stroke include the following:

  • Bedsores
  • Blood clots
  • Fibrosis of connective tissue resulting in decreased mobility
  • Malnutrition
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs; if a catheter is required)

More than 30 percent of stroke patients require assistance with daily living and approximately 15 percent require care in an assisted-living facility (e.g., nursing home, rehabilitation center). Approximately 20 percent of stroke patients require help walking (e.g., cane, walker) and as many as 33 percent suffer from depression. Treatment for stroke usually involves rehabilitation.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015