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Diagnosing a Stroke

Diagnostic Tests

When a person has symptoms of a stroke, the doctor will evaluate the symptoms, get a medical history and do a physical examination. To determine the type of stroke and the extent of the damage, any of the following tests may be ordered:

CT or CAT Scan

CT Scan (Computed Tomography) or CAT Scan uses radiation to create a picture of the brain and blood vessels. It is usually done in the emergency department to find out the type of stroke you have. Summa Health System – Akron Campus uses 3D imaging of the brain, vessels and blood flow. This assists in identifying what areas of the brain have already received irreversible damage and which areas can be saved by aggressive treatments. If treatments are needed, this new imaging technology allows our team to perform mechanical clot removal, expanding the window of opportunity for treating stroke.

CT Perfusion Scan

This test provides detailed information about blood flow to the brain. The Rapid Perfusion Scan is sent to the stroke neurologist’s cell phone within minutes allowing for faster identification and faster treatment.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

An MRI uses a large magnetic field to produce an image of the brain. With this test, you will need to lie quietly for about 30 minutes. Notify your nurse if you have a pacemaker or any metal implants to determine if they are compatible with having an MRI. If you have problems being in a closed space, you can have some medicine to relax you before the test.

An MRA detects blood vessel changes such as a blockage, narrowing or an aneurysm and follows the same procedure as the MRI.

Electrocardiogram (EKG)

This test is used to test for the electrical activity of the heart. Pads with a sticky back are placed on your chest, legs and arms, and a recording of the heartbeat is made.


An echocardiogram is a moving picture of the heart using sound waves. The technologist will place gel on your chest and take pictures of your heart from different angles.

The test is used to:

  • measure the thickness of the heart walls and check the size of the heart chambers
  • see how well the heart pumps
  • check how blood flows from one heart chamber to the next through the valves,
  • check for abnormal fluid, blood clots, leaks, and tumors

A Transesophageal Echocardiogram test may be done to better see the heart. A sound wave tube is passed into the esophagus, and the heart is seen from behind rather than through the chest wall via ultrasound. This can provide more detailed pictures of the heart, especially when looking for a blood clot.

Blood Flow Tests

Carotid Doppler – This test uses sound waves to see if there is a blockage in the carotid arteries. A gel will be put on the side of your neck, and a small probe will then be placed on top of the area to be checked.

Transcranial Doppler – A test to see blood flow in vessels inside the head using sound waves. A gel will be put on both sides of your temples, over both closed eyelids and to the base of your head. A wand is then gently placed over those areas, and a recording is made of the sound waves.

Cerebral Arteriogram (or Angiography) – This test uses X-rays to see how the blood flows or if there are blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the brain. A catheter is put in an artery in the groin, and dye is injected so that the vessels can be seen when X-rays are taken.

Treatment Options


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.