A stroke is a medical event that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced. When this occurs, brain tissue is deprived of oxygen and nutrients. Since brain cells can begin to die in minutes, damage from stroke can occur almost immediately.
Some strokes are minor, leaving the individual with minimal lasting effects. However, a complicated stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability or even death, indicates the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is why it is crucial to recognize stroke risk factors and figure out how to head off an event, if possible.
Certain tests are used to determine the liklihood that a stroke may occur. It is important to note that not all people who will experience a stroke have noticeable symptoms. Imaging tests often are ordered after a stroke occurs to determine which type of stroke an individual suffered. Here’s a deeper look at some diagnostic tests for stroke.
• Carotid ultrasound: This ultrasound is painless and uses sound waves to create pictures of the carotid arteries, which are responsible for supplying oxygen-rich blood to the brain. The images will indicate if plaque has narrowed or blocked the carotid arteries, a risk factor for stroke.
• Doppler ultrasound: This is a special test that shows the speed and direction of blood moving through carotid arteries and other blood vessels.
• Carotid angiography: The Center for Neuro Skills® says a carotid angiography employs a dye and special X-rays to show the insides of the carotid arteries, again helping to diagnose potential blockages.
• Electrocardiogram: An electrocardiogram, also called an ECG or EKG, measures the heart’s electrical activity. The test determines if the heart is beating regularly and the strength and timing of electrical signals that pass through the heart. An EKG can detect atrial fibrillation, which is a risk factor for stroke.
• Magnetic resonance imaging: An MRI uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create a detailed view of the brain. An MRI may be used to detect brain tissue damage by an ischemic stroke (result of a blockage) and brain hemorrhages. A doctor may use a dye injected into blood vessels to highlight blood flow.
• Computed tomography: A CT or CAT scan creates cross-sectional pictures of the brain, says the Mayo Clinic. A CT scan can show if a stroke has occurred and also identify if the stroke was ischemic or hemorrhagic (the result of bleeding).
• Blood tests: Doctors say that blood tests can measure various things, including platelets in the blood. Abnormal platelet levels could be a sign of a bleeding disorder (not too much or too much clotting).
A stroke is a serious condition that can cause lasting brain damage. Testing can identify risk factors and determine if a stroke already occurred.
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