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Brainstem stroke

The brainstem connects the brain and the spinal cord. It controls many important functions, such as breathing, blood pressure and heart rhythm.

Changes that may occur after a stroke in the brainstem include:

  • breathing problems
  • coma: You are unable to wake up or move.
  • dysphagia: You have a swallowing problem caused by weakness or loss of feeling in your tongue, lips, palate and/or throat.
  • heart problems
  • hearing loss
  • hemiparesis or hemiplegia: You have weakness, partial or complete paralysis on your left side or right side or both.
  • "locked in" state: You appear to be aware of your surroundings, but are unable to speak or respond in a meaningful way.
  • sensation changes: You have numbness or loss of feeling on your left side or right side or both.


Source: Allina Patient Education, Understanding Stroke: Information about Stroke and Recovery, fourth edition, ISBN 1-931876-13-4

First published: 02/01/2006
Last updated: 12/09/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Patient Education experts