A cerebellar stroke occurs when there’s a disruption of blood flow to the cerebellum at the back of your brain. This causes symptoms affecting your movement but can progress to be life threatening.

A cerebellar stroke is one of the less common types of stroke. It occurs when a blood vessel is blocked or bleeding, causing complete interruption to a portion of the cerebellum.

This type of stroke typically affects only one side or section of the cerebellum. It’s also referred to as cerebellar stroke syndrome.

The cerebellum is the portion of your brain that controls movement and maintains balance. It’s located in the lower back of your brain and has symmetric left and right sides. Each side controls coordination and movement for the corresponding side of your body.

Initial symptoms may seem mild, which could lead to a delay in diagnosis. But without prompt treatment, a cerebellar stroke can be life threatening.

A cerebellar stroke is often due to a blood clot obstructing blood flow to the cerebellum.

Blood clots can form in your blood vessels or travel from other parts of the body — such as the heart or the neck — until they become trapped in blood vessels, leading to the cerebellum. This is known as a cerebellar infarct.

Several blood vessels feed the cerebellum. A blood clot in any of these vessels can cause a stroke. The vessels that reach this part of the brain include:

A cerebellar stroke can also be the result of head trauma or hemorrhage that causes blood to pool in a portion of your brain. A brain hemorrhage can cause pressure to build in your brain and interrupt regular blood flow.

Symptoms from a cerebellar stroke happen suddenly. They’re often nonspecific, meaning they resemble symptoms of other conditions. In many cases, people ignore these symptoms.

Common symptoms of a cerebral stroke include:

More visible symptoms of a cerebellar stroke may include:

If left untreated, a cerebellar stroke can cause your brain to swell or bleed. These complications can lead to further damage to your cerebellum and other areas of your brain.

If a cerebellar stroke affects your brain stem, it could also affect your breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure.

Several factors can increase your risk of having a cerebellar stroke. Risk factors that could lead to a blood clot or obstruction include:

While anyone can get a cerebellar stroke, they’re most common in males over 50.

Before recommending treatment, a doctor will conduct a thorough evaluation of your medical history and examine your symptoms. Accurately diagnosing the condition is crucial to help rule out other brain conditions or issues that could lead to recurrent strokes.

A healthcare professional may perform a series of three bedside tests known as the HINTS (head impulse, nystagmus, test of skew) exam to help determine whether your symptoms are due to a problem in the brain or a peripheral issue.

They’ll also use imaging tests to check for brain bleeding or injury. These tests can include a CT scan and an MRI, though an MRI can more accurately display the cerebellum.

Other procedures your doctor may use to help them diagnose your condition include:

Treatment depends on the severity of the stroke and the symptoms you’re experiencing. If there’s a brain hemorrhage, your doctor will work to control the bleeding and reduce swelling in your brain.

If your doctor discovers a blood clot, they may surgically remove it or administer medication to dissolve it. They may also recommend medication to:

If a cerebellar stroke affected your motor skills and mobility, your doctor may recommend the following rehabilitation therapies:

Your outlook after a cerebellar stroke is similar to what you’d have after most strokes. The larger the area of the brain affected, the less favorable your outlook.

Cerebellar strokes due to blood clots (ischemic) have a more favorable outcome than those due to bleeding (hemorrhagic).

Prompt diagnosis and treatment can reduce your chances of long-term complications.

Research suggests that 9–39% of people die after an ischemic cerebellar stroke. Estimates of how many people can regain functional independence range from 35–82%.

A cerebellar stroke is a rare condition that can affect your balance and motor skills. Since this type of stroke presents with nonspecific symptoms, receiving treatment may be delayed. This can make cerebellar strokes life threatening.

If treated early, the chance of recovery from a cerebellar stroke is high. However, full recovery can take time. There may be a chance of permanent injury. Discuss your options and concerns with your doctor.

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