Diagnosis of a Stroke

Diagnosis of a stroke is based on the patient’s medical history and a physical exam. A variety of diagnostic tests are available.  If a stroke is suspected, the doctor will order an MRI or computed tomography (CT) scan to determine whether the stroke was caused by a clot or from bleeding inside the brain. Additional tests may be done depending on the scan results.

If disease or narrowing of one of the large arteries in the neck (carotid arteries) is suspected, the following tests may be done:

  • Ultrasound of the carotid artery
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) scan to show the flow of blood through the blood vessels
  • Carotid arteriography (injecting radioactive material into the blood stream) to show specific arteries
  • If evidence shows that the stroke is caused by a clot that formed in the heart, the doctor may order a chest X-ray, ECG or EKG, echocardiograph or other heart imaging test
  • Other laboratory tests may be done to see if other conditions are present, check the person’s overall health and see if the patient’s blood clots too easily