Exams and Tests
Time is critical when diagnosing a
stroke. A quick diagnosis-the sooner, the better-may
enable your doctor to use medicines that can lead to a better recovery.
The first priority will be to determine whether you are having an
ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. This distinction is critical because the medicine
given for an ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot) could be life-threatening
if the stroke is hemorrhagic (caused by bleeding). Your doctor will also want
to rule out other conditions that have symptoms similar to a stroke and to
check for complications.
The first test after a stroke is
computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain, which is a
series of X-rays of your brain that can show whether there is bleeding. This
test will help your doctor diagnose whether the stroke is ischemic or
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be done to
find out the amount of damage to the brain and help predict recovery.
Other initial tests recommended for ischemic stroke include:
If your doctor suspects or if other tests show narrowing of
carotid artery, he or she may want you to have a
carotid ultrasound/Doppler scan to evaluate blood flow
through the artery. Your doctor may also request
magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA), CT angiogram, or
If your doctor
believes the stroke may have been caused by a problem with your heart, an
Holter monitoring or telemetry test may be done.
Guidelines recommend that risk factors for heart disease also be
assessed after a stroke to prevent disability or death from a future heart
problem. This is because many people who have had a stroke also have
coronary artery disease.