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Stroke? TIA? Complicated Migraine? Physician Experts Concerned for Serene Branson’s Speech Failure

Mon February 14 2011 4:22 pm
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Video of Serene Branson with disruption of speech that occurred during a live report on the Grammy’s Sunday night.

Serene Branson, a CBS Los Angeles reporter, was giving a live report from the red carpet of the Grammy awards Sunday night, when her speech suddenly became slurred and incomprehensible. She appeared increasingly worried and aware that something was wrong while she was on the air, but almost carried on as if nothing had happened.

Mike Nelson,a CBS spokesman, gave the following statement: “Serene Branson was examined by paramedics on scene immediately after her broadcast. Her vital signs were normal. She was not hospitalized. As a precautionary measure, a colleague gave her a ride home and she says that she is feeling fine this morning.”

But after watching the clip, several doctors said that Sunday night’s events caught on tape should not be taken lightly.

Physician experts agree that she appeared to have aphasia, or a problem with expressive language, and right-sided facial weakness. The worse-case scenario would be symptoms resulting from a stroke, which is an interruption of blood supply to the brain.

Aphasia can occur suddenly after a stroke or head injury, but it can also progress gradually because of a growing brain tumor or degenerative brain disease.

The symptom can also be the result of a TIA (trans-ischemic attack). A TIA is a change in the blood supply to a particular area of the brain, resulting in brief neurologic dysfunction that persists, by definition, for less than 24 hours. If symptoms persist longer, then it is categorized as a stroke.

A TIA usually lasts less than one to two hours because of a temporary disturbance of blood supply to an area of the brain. A TIA is often considered a warning sign for a true stroke in the future if nothing is done to prevent it.

Severe migraines can also cause speech aphasia, visual disturbances, and photophobia (aversion or fear of bright light or flashing lights). The symptoms are part of aura that occurs before severe headaches, nausea and vomiting. TIA onset is usually more sudden than a migraine. Sometimes TIAs and strokes are misdiagnosed as migraines.

People with any symptom like aphasia should be rushed to the hospital because immediate treatment for a stroke can minimize or prevent brain damage and disability.

The most common conditions that appear similar to TIAs are migraines, glucose derangement (hypoglycemia), seizures, post-ictal (post seizure) states, and tumors (especially with sudden bleeding on the brain).

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