Ted Kennedy: Explaining the Differences and Similarities Between Seizures and Strokes

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Ted Kennedy remained hospitalized Saturday for tests after reportedly suffering two seizures earlier in the day.

Initial reports indicated Kennedy, who had surgery in October to repair a nearly complete blockage in a major neck artery, suffered stroke-like symptoms.

Dr. Jennifer H. Mieres, a cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine who has not treated Kennedy, said a stroke may sometimes lead to a seizure or present itself as a seizure.

"It may manifest as a seizure in which the person will lose consciousness and may shake all over," she said. "So strokes and seizures can be linked. However, sometimes seizures can be a manifestation of other things, such as tumors of the brain. So we'll have to wait and see if he had a seizure that was unrelated to a stroke or possibly a mini stroke."

Kennedy's surgery in October, performed at Massachusetts General Hospital, included an hour-long procedure to unclog his left carotid artery — a main supplier of blood to the face and brain.

"The same build-up of plaque that occurs in the arteries that supply the heart, and that can lead to a heart attack, occurs in other arteries in the body," Mieres explained of Kennedy's blockage. "When that same build-up of fat and fatty substances occurs in the carotid artery, it can result in a brain attack or stroke."

Mieres, who is a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, added that the same risk factors that lead to blockages in the coronary arteries, such as being overweight, having hypertension or diabetes, as well as smoking and excessive use of alcohol, can lead to blockages in the carotid arteries.