Vascular Neurology and Stroke

Specialists who focus on the different types of stroke

Vascular neurology is the specialized treatment of strokes and stroke risk factors. You may need to see a vascular neurologist during or after a stroke, or if you are at risk of having a stroke.

Vascular neurologists are often called stroke doctors because, in addition to taking care of people who have neurological conditions, they concentrate all or most of their work on taking care of people who have challenging stroke problems.

All neurologists have a great deal of experience in managing strokes. Vascular neurology requires additional subspecialty training after completion of a four-year neurology residency. This subspecialty training may take between one to three years and is focused on the latest techniques in stroke care, including interventional treatments.

A stroke is characterized by symptoms such as weakness, numbness, vision changes, and speech disturbance. These symptoms are caused by damage to the brain, usually resulting from an interruption of blood supply or by a hemorrhage (bleeding) in the brain.

Doctor discusses patient's test results
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Vascular Neurologists

There are a number of reasons why you may need to see a vascular neurologist. If you have difficulty managing stroke risk factors, are seen in the hospital within a few hours of having a stroke, have an unexplained stroke, have recurrent strokes, or have unusual effects of a stroke.

Stroke Risk Factors

If you have blood vessel abnormalities in the brain, such as a brain aneurysm, a bulge that forms in an artery that can tear, or an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), this can increase your risk of having a stroke. The decision of whether you should be taking a blood thinner or should have a procedure to repair the blood vessel is fairly complicated, and you may need to see a vascular neurologist to assess the risks and benefits of various treatment options.

Blood clotting disorders also increase the risk of strokes, and these are generally lifelong conditions that require a long-term stroke prevention treatment strategy.

Acute Stroke Management

If you are able to get to the hospital within a few hours of the beginning of your stroke symptoms, you have a better chance of recovery. Stroke treatments, including the powerful blood thinner tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), are far more effective and safe when administered within the first few hours of stroke symptoms before permanent damage occurs.

Unexplained Stroke

There are a number of common stroke risk factors. Most of the time, one or more risk factors are identified as the cause of a stroke.

If you have had a stroke without a clear cause, this is referred to as a cryptogenic stroke, and you might be referred to a vascular neurologist for further diagnostic testing, and for a plan regarding stroke prevention strategies.

Recurrent Strokes

If you have had recurrent strokes, such as in multi-infarct dementia, you may need to see a stroke neurologist, especially if your recurrent strokes are cryptogenic.

Unusual Effects

The effects of a stroke generally involve language problems, physical weakness, or problems with vision. Sometimes, however, a person can experience unexpected personality changes after a stroke, such as emotional behavior that seems out of character or doesn't necessarily match up with the damaged area in the brain.

A stroke neurologist can help determine whether unexplained or unexpected symptoms are related to the stroke.

Young Age or High Risk

If you have a particularly high-risk situation, such as a stroke during pregnancy, or if your baby has had a stroke, you may need a consultation with a stroke neurologist, who may follow you regularly to identify and manage stroke risk factors. Similarly, if your teenager has had a stroke, a stroke neurologist can help manage long-term effects and focus on the prevention of future strokes.

A Word From Verywell

Years ago, there was little that doctors could do to treat strokes, due to the lack of diagnostic techniques and effective treatments. However, neurologists and other physicians have developed multiple new and effective approaches to diagnose, treat and prevent strokes over the past few decades, resulting in substantially improved stroke care. Your stroke care team includes doctors, nurses, and therapists. If you have had a stroke, there are a number of post-stroke rehabilitative techniques, including electrical therapy and mirror therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the three types of stroke?

    The three types of stroke are ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, and a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke. Most strokes are ischemic strokes. 

  • Do cardiologists treat stroke patients?

    Yes, in addition to heart disease, cardiologists treat patients who have had strokes. However, a cardiologist is just one healthcare provider on the stroke care team.

    Other doctors that take care of stroke patients include your primary care physician, stroke neurology specialists or vascular neurologist, and physiatrists. Therapists in a stroke care team can include physical, occupational, recreational, and speech therapists.

  • What does a vascular neurologist treat?

    The specialty of vascular neurology focuses on vascular issues involving the central nervous system. This include stroke, brain hemorrhages, aneurysms, spinal cord hemorrhage, and other kinds of brain bleeds. 

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Beal CC. Gender and Stroke SymptomsJournal of Neuroscience Nursing. 2010;42(2):80-87. doi:10.1097/jnn.0b013e3181ce5c70

  3. Amin H, Schindler J. Vascular Neurology Board Review. 2017. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-39605-7

  4. Boehme AK, Esenwa C, Elkind MS. Stroke Risk Factors, Genetics, and PreventionCirc Res. 2017;120(3):472–495. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.308398

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  6. Kim JS. Post-stroke Mood and Emotional Disturbances: Pharmacological Therapy Based on MechanismsJ Stroke. 2016;18(3):244–255. doi:10.5853/jos.2016.01144

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About stroke.

  8. American Stroke Association. The medical rehab team.

Additional Reading

By Jose Vega MD, PhD
Jose Vega MD, PhD, is a board-certified neurologist and published researcher specializing in stroke.