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Diagnosis & Testing

Having a stroke is an emergency situation. Diagnosis includes:

  • Neurological exams
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) —a test that records the heart's activity by measuring electrical currents through the heart muscle
  • Brain and blood vessel imaging by:
    • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the brain. This test helps doctors identify hemorrhagic versus ischemic stroke
    • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the brain
    • Ultrasonography—a test that uses sound waves to examine the brain
  • Blood tests especially homocysteine, prothrombin time, and other coagulation tests

Some tests may include:

  • Arteriography (angiography)—a catheter is placed in a blood vessel in the groin and threaded up to the brain; to show arteries in the brain
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)—shows brain blood vessels by mapping blood flow
  • CT angiogram (CTA)—this test uses a CT scanner and can give images of the blood vessels inside the brain, after a dye is injected into the veins
  • Functional MRI—shows brain activity by picking up signals from oxygenated blood
  • Doppler ultrasound —shows narrowing of the arteries (carotid and vertebral) supplying the brain; evaluates flow of blood in brain
  • Echocardiography —a test that uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the size, shape, and motion of the heart; to show if the clot comes from one of the heart's chambers