Stroke Diagnosis

It’s critical to diagnose a stroke in progress because the treatment for stroke depends on the type of stroke, and, in some cases, the location of the injury to the brain. Other conditions with similar symptoms to stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) will need to be ruled out to diagnose stroke. Some of these include seizures, fainting, migraine headaches, heart problems or other general medical conditions.

Diagnostic Tests

Diagnostic tests examine how the brain looks, works and gets its blood supply. Most are safe and painless.

These tests fall into two categories: 1) imaging tests and 2) blood flow tests.

Imaging Tests

  • CT (computed tomography) or CAT scan. It uses radiation to create a picture (like an X-ray) of the brain. It’s usually one of the first tests given to a patient with stroke symptoms. CT test results give valuable information about the cause of stroke and the location and extent of brain injury.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This test uses a large magnetic field to produce an image of the brain. Like the CT scan, it shows the location and extent of brain injury. The image produced by MRI is sharper and more detailed than a CT scan, so it’s often used to diagnose small, deep injuries.
  • CTA (computed tomographic angiography). In CTA, a special contrast material (dye) is injected into a vein and images are taken of the blood vessels to look for abnormalities such as an aneurysm.
  • MRA (magnetic resonance angiography). In this test, the blood vessels are imaged through a magnetic resonance scanner to locate a cerebral aneurysm.

Blood Flow Tests

These tests give information about the condition of arteries in your head and neck that supply blood to your brain.

  • CTP (computer tomography perfusion). This test a specialized CT use to evaluate blood flow in different parts of the brain.
  • Cerebral angiogram. This test uses an injection of contrast into blood vessels with the help of a catheter and X-rays imaging guidance to examine blood vessels in the brain. This test is used to locate and remove blood clots in the brain. This test is very valuable in diagnosing and treating aneurysms and malformed blood vessels.