Typically Diagnosed in an Emergency Room
Typically, a stroke is diagnosed in an emergency situation after you have suffered one.
The following tests may be used to identify whether you are having a stroke, the cause of a stroke or are at risk for stroke:
You will be tested for awareness and consciousness; speech, language and memory function; vision and eye movements; sensation and movement in the face, arms and legs; and reflexes.
This test records your heart's activity by measuring electrical currents. It can help detect an arrhythmia, which may cause blood clots to form in the heart chambers.
A test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. These ultrasound pictures are much more detailed than X-ray images and involve no radiation exposure. This test can make images to show if a blood clot from your heart has caused your stroke. This test helps identify whether there is a structural abnormality (such as a PFO) in your heart that was a source of a stroke.
Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
A CT scan delivers computer-generated, x-ray images of the blood vessels in your neck and brain. It is valuable because it can be performed quickly but strokes may not be seen on a CT scan if performed early in the course of a stroke. Nevertheless, early in the course of a stroke, this test can be useful because it can detect bleeding in the brain. This is helpful in to doctors who are trying to decide whether it is safe to use the "clot busting" medication to stop an ischemic stroke.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan
MRI uses magnets and radio waves to make images of the inside of your body. It is very precise in detecting brain tissue damaged by an ischemic stroke. This procedure does not involve the use of x-rays.
This is a simple, painless test that uses sound waves to create a picture of the area being studied. It can show any narrowing or clotting in your carotid arteries. It helps determine whether blockage in these neck arteries are the cause of your stoke or offer increased risk for stroke.
A more invasive test than those above, angiography involves inserting a catheter, or thin tube, into the femoral artery in the groin area. The catheter is guided into the carotid artery under X-ray vision. Contrast dye is injected to visualize the artery on X-ray. This shows the amount of blockage in the arteries supplying the brain.