Older African American man smiling after recovering from stroke.

Stroke diagnosis

Stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires accurate diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Because treatment depends on the type of stroke, you'll have one or more diagnostic procedures to determine the location of the stroke. Combined with a history and physical examination, one more of these diagnostic tests can often accurately diagnose and characterize a stroke within minutes, optimizing the chance of a good recovery.

Diagnostic procedures for stroke may include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) imaging scan—uses X-rays and a computer to show bleeding or damage to brain cells and help identify the location or type of stroke.

  • CTA (computed tomographic angiography)—uses an injection of iodine-rich contrast material and CT scanning to help diagnose and evaluate blood vessel disease, including showing blockages in blood vessels or other blood vessel irregularities. 

  • Cerebral angiogram—an invasive test where a catheter is inserted into the arteries of the brain to directly evaluate them with extreme precision.

  • Doppler sonography (carotid ultrasound)—this noninvasive test uses sound waves to see if plaque has narrowed or blocked your carotid arteries. 

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)—a noninvasive test that evaluates the electrical activity in the brain, called brain waves. 

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—uses a magnet, radio frequencies and a computer, instead of radiation, to find small changes in brain tissue. 

  • MRA (magnetic resonance angiography)—is a type of MRI that looks specifically at the body’s blood vessels.

Get more information about stroke care at The Christ Hospital Health Network.