Tests & Diagnostics

  • CT Scan.  A very specialized and detailed X-ray.  This is a sensitive study to check for signs of a stroke. It can also be sued to check for other problems that may cause stroke-like symptoms such as bleeding around the brain, tumors, cysts, and infections. Sometimes to make the picture clearer, a dye is injected into the patient through a vein. Other than a possible needle stick, a CT scan is painless and poses very little risk to the patient.
  • MRI. A specialized scan used to view internal organs. This computer technology is especially good at viewing the brain and spinal cord.  The MRI shows the same information as the CT scan, but it may be more detailed and more sensitive for signs of a stroke. The test is not painful, but the patient must remain still and relaxed during the scan.
  • Carotid Duplex.  This study examines blood flow through the carotid arteries (in the neck and brain) using an ultrasound machine. The carotid arteries are the major blood vessels carrying blood to the brain. This test can help to determine if there is any narrowing or blockage of blood flow to the brain. Carotid duplex is painless and poses no risk to patients.
  • EKG  (electrocardiogram). This test measures the electrical activity of the heart. It is useful in looking for rhythm abnormalities such as atrial fibrillation, which is a risk factor for stroke. It can also detect signs of a prior or current heart attack.  It is performed by attaching a series of patches and wires to the chest.  EKG is painless and poses no risk to patients.
  • Echocardiogram. This test is an ultrasound of the heart. It uses sound waves to produce and record images of your heart. These images help to find abnormalities of  heart muscles or valves, and fluid around the heart. Any abnormalities with the heart can increase the risk for stroke. Echocardiogram is painless and poses no risk to patients.
  • Transcranial Doppler.  This test uses the ultrasound machine to measure flow rates of blood through major brain arteries.  This is done to look for blockages of blood flow to or in the brain. Transcranial Doppler is painless and poses no risk to patients.
  • Cerebral Angiogram. This test provides information about the blood circulation in the brain. A small tube, or catheter, is threaded into a main artery in the leg until it is in position above the heart. A dye is injected through the catheter into the arteries in the neck and brain and x-rays are taken. This test can help identify problems with the major blood vessels of the neck and brain. Numbing medicine is used where the catheter enters the body, but there may still be some minor discomfort with this test.
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