Could a mini stroke be the cause of my dad's confusion?

Roka1030 asked...

My dad is 79 and has emphysema and congestive heart failure. He suffered his first heart attack at age 35 and has had 2 bypass surgeries. Currently, the majority of his problems come from his lungs. He has a terrible time breathing and getting from room to room. Recently, he has become confused and has had some hallucinations, then will talk totally normal. The doctor seems to think it is from lack of oxygen to the brain, but could it be a mini stroke?

Expert Answer

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Confusion and hallucinations are unlikely to be caused by a stroke. Stroke are almost always associated with some type of specific neurologic loss of function - such as weakness or numbness of one side of the body, visual loss, language dysfunction, etc. Confusion and hallucinations are almost always caused by something called "encephalopathy". The risk factos for encephalopathy include 1)age, 2)pre-existing memory trouble, 3)co-existing medical conditions. Your father, being 79, with several medical problems, is more likely suffering from encephalopathy. Treatment of his lung issue is most likely to provide the best relief of the problem.

Good luck!