Cerebral microemboli can occur without patients showing any symptoms or can occur during procedures used to treat intracranial stenosis.
When symptoms are present, they are often in the form of a TIA, or microstroke, which has symptoms similar to an ischemic stroke, but usually lasts between 2 and 30 minutes.
Patients who have experienced a TIA or ischemic stroke may have the following symptoms:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion
- Sudden trouble speaking
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Some research findings suggest that cerebral microemboli may cause problems with brain function, but it is unclear whether this is due to undetected strokes or to the microemboli alone. Symptoms include:
- Abnormal forgetfulness
Causes and Risk Factors
The risk of developing cerebral microemboli increases with procedures that may cause obstructions to enter the bloodstream, including surgeries and treatments for heart disease.
The condition also is closely associated with arterial stenosis (narrowed blood vessels), which is caused by atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Atherosclerosis can begin in early adulthood, but symptoms may not be evident until many years later.
Microemboli can occur in patients with undertreated atrial fibrillation, and indicate the need for more aggressive blood thinning to prevent strokes.
The risk of developing atherosclerosis, arterial stenosis and cerebral microemboli is increased by: