In today’s world, physicians have multiple diagnostic techniques and imaging tools at their disposal to help diagnose a stroke quickly and accurately. They typically need to understand the type of stroke you have had, the cause of it, the part of the brain that has been impacted and to determine if there is a brain bleed.
However, the first and foremost step in the diagnosis is a short neurological examination, or an evaluation of the nervous system. This establishes the presence or absence of stroke. This is then followed up with a series of tests to establish the causes of stroke, in order to initiate appropriate treatment. The routine tests are, blood tests for cholesterol and blood sugar levels, a blood pressure reading, checking pulse for any irregular heartbeat and brain scans to establish whether the stroke is due to bleeding or from a blockage in the blood vessel and to assess the extent of damage.
The attending physician will ask you or family member about risk factors that include, High BP, Smoking, Heart diseases and personal or family history of strokes. The attending physician would also want to know as much as information as possible about the symptoms.
During the physical exam, the following are checked:
The doctor may recommend several blood tests to check the rate at which your blood clots, to check for blood sugar levels, to check for infections and also ensure other critical blood chemical levels. Ensuring optimum levels is an essential part of the treatment plan.
One or more of the below diagnostic tests maybe requested, to confirm the diagnosis of a stroke or a Mini-Stroke.
Also referred to as the Brain CT, this test makes use of X-Rays to take clear, detailed pictures of your brain. This is most often one of the first tests done as soon as a Stroke is suspected. This clearly shows the bleeding in the brain if any, and the damage of the brain cells. It also helps diagnose other brain related conditions that maybe responsible for the symptoms.
Also referred to as MRI, this test uses magnets and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the brain. An MRI can detect brain tissue damaged by an ischemic stroke and brain hemorrhages. Sometimes, a dye is injected into the blood vessel to get a clear view of the arteries and veins and highlight blood flow.
In this test, detailed images of the insides of the carotid artery in the neck are captured using the aid of sound waves. This is used to determine the presence of plaque or fatty deposits that clog the arteries.
In a cerebral angiogram, a really thin and flexible tube is inserted through a small incision, most often in the groin and guided through the major blood vessels to the carotid and vertebral arteries. Post this, a dye is injected into the blood vessel which lets the blood flow be captured through an XRAY. This procedure helps the physicians get a detailed view of the arteries in the brain and neck region.
An echo cardiogram uses sound waves to capture clear and detailed images of the heart. This test is recommended when a embolic stroke is suspected. It then helps the doctors to locate the source of the clots that originated in the heart.