What is a cerebellar stroke?

A cerebellar stroke is one of the less common types of strokes. 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 the brain that controls movement and maintains balance. It’s located at the back of your brain, at the bottom. It has a symmetric left and right side. Each side controls coordination and movement for the corresponding side of your body.

There are a number of blood vessels that 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 is a rare condition. According to a 2015 review, they account for less than 10 percent of all strokes. Left untreated, a cerebellar stroke can be life-threatening.

Symptoms from a cerebellar stroke happen suddenly. They can be mistaken for other conditions because they appear nonspecific. In many cases, these symptoms are ignored.

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, your breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure could also be affected.

A cerebellar stroke is often caused by a blood clot that obstructs 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 it becomes trapped in blood vessels leading to the cerebellum.

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.

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

Before recommending treatment, your 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.

Your doctor will use imaging tests to see if there’s any brain bleeding or injury. These tests can include a CT scan and MRI.

An MRI may be the first recommended procedure. It can more accurately display the cerebellum than a CT scan. This is because the cerebellum is surrounded by bone and is located at the back of your brain.

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’ll surgically remove the clot or prescribe you medication to dissolve it. They may also recommend medication to:

If a cerebellar stroke affected your motor skills and mobility, your doctor may recommend rehabilitation therapy. Sessions will focus on improving your ability to complete daily tasks:

  • Physical therapy can improve your mobility, balance, and muscle function.
  • Occupational therapy can improve your ability to perform everyday activities.
  • Speech therapy can improve your swallowing and speech.

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.