A stroke is a medical emergency. It occurs when a blockage or rupture in a blood vessel disrupts blood flow in the brain, damaging a region in the brain. The middle cerebral artery is the most common blood vessel involved in a stroke.

The middle cerebral artery (MCA) supplies a large part of the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes of the brain. These areas control many bodily functions, including movement, sensation, coordination, and language. An MCA stroke causes the death of brain cells in these regions.

MCA strokes are the most common type of stroke.

An MCA stroke can cause serious complications, such as permanent disability or death. Immediate treatment is required to prevent these complications and give the best chance of making a full recovery.

This article examines MCA strokes in more detail, including symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

A stroke can occur due to interruption of blood flow in the whole middle cerebral artery or one of its branches. The symptoms correspond to the damaged regions.

Typical symptoms can include sudden:

Right vs. left MCA stroke symptoms

You have one middle cerebral artery on each side of your brain. Most symptoms of an MCA stroke appear on the side of your body opposite to where the stroke occurred. This is because most of the nerves that travel from your brain to your body cross sides.

The MCA provides blood to the regions of the brain involved in motor and sensory function on the opposite side of the body. The MCA regions on each side also have some functions specific to just one side of the brain.

In most right-handed people, the left side of the brain controls comprehension and production of language, while the right side controls three-dimensional spatial abilities.

A deficit in language or spatial abilities is disabling, but in different ways.

A stroke is an emergency. It always requires immediate medical attention.

Medical emergency

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you or someone you’re with has potential stroke symptoms, such as sudden:

  • numbness or weakness on one side
  • confusion
  • trouble walking
  • severe headache
  • visual changes

Strokes are classified as:

According to the American Stroke Association, about 87% of strokes are classified as ischemic strokes. They occur when a blood vessel supplying the brain is obstructed, most often by a blood clot.

Risk factors for MCA strokes can be divided into nonmodifiable and modifiable.

Nonmodifiable risk factors include:

Modifiable risk factors include:

Strokes can cause temporary or permanent complications. The complications you develop depend on the injured part of your brain.

Complications can include:

Imaging is the main way doctors diagnose a stroke. Imaging options include CT scans and MRI scans.

Other tests that can provide supportive evidence or help identify the underlying cause of a stroke include:

  • a physical exam
  • a neurological exam
  • review of your personal family medical history
  • EKG
  • blood tests

Aggressive treatment is needed to deal with MCA strokes due to the serious consequences they can cause. Stroke treatment involves three phases:

  1. Treating the sudden symptoms and saving your life by:
    • administering medications that can dissolve blood clots or prevent them from growing, such as aspirin, heparin, or tissue plasminogen activator
    • managing blood pressure and fluid levels to prevent swelling in the brain, which causes further stroke damage
  2. Reducing modifiable risk factors to reduce the risk of another stroke, such as:
    • reducing blood pressure if you have hypertension
    • losing weight if you have overweight or obesity
    • quitting smoking if you smoke
  3. Addressing long-term complications, such as:

The rehabilitation process after a stroke often starts within 1–2 days. The recovery time can vary significantly between people but can last anywhere from weeks to years.

Some people do not regain all the function they had before the stroke, but symptoms often continue to improve for up to years.

Learn more about stroke recovery.

The outlook, or prognosis, after a stroke varies significantly depending on the extent of brain damage.

Some people regain full function. Others have long-term, severe disability.

Factors that influence your outlook include:

  • the size of the stroke
  • whether you received prompt treatment
  • whether you have access to rehabilitation therapies

Mental status by day 4 can help predict how well a person will recover.

Ways you can potentially minimize your risk of an MCA stroke include:

Learn more about ways you can prevent a stroke.

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about MCA strokes.

What does an MCA stroke affect?

An MCA stroke develops in the middle cerebral artery. This artery supplies your brain with most of its blood.

How common are MCA strokes?

MCA strokes are the most common type of stroke. Nearly 800,000 people have a stroke each year in the United States.

What is the life expectancy of someone who’s had an MCA stroke?

The life expectancy after an MCA stroke largely depends on its severity. Some people do not have serious complications, while others may have severe disability. In other cases, the stroke leads to death.

An MCA stroke is when brain damage occurs due to disrupted blood flow in the middle cerebral artery. This blood vessel or one of its branches is the most common blood vessel involved in strokes.

It’s critical to get immediate medical attention anytime you suspect you or someone you’re with is having a stroke. Warning signs include sudden trouble speaking, weakness, or visual changes.