is a cardiovascular disease. It affects the blood
vessels that supply blood to the brain.
When blood flow to the brain is
impaired, oxygen and important nutrients cannot be
delivered. The result is abnormal brain function.
Blood flow to the brain can be disrupted by either a
blockage or rupture of an artery to the brain. There
are many causes for a stroke.
This is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment
could mean the difference between life and death.
Early treatment can also minimize damage to your
brain and potential disability.
Screening and diagnosis
If you've had a previous stroke or TIA or think you're at risk of
stroke, talk with your doctor about screening and diagnostic tests.
Before treating a stroke, your doctor must diagnose the type of stroke
and its location. Other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a
tumor, also need to be excluded.
The following are most often used as screening tools to determine your
risk, but they may also be used as diagnostic tools if you're having a
examination and tests.
Your doctor may check for risk factors of stroke, including high
blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and elevated
levels of the amino acid homocysteine. Your doctor may also use a
stethoscope to listen for a whooshing sound (bruit) over your
arteries that may indicate atherosclerosis.
In this procedure, a wand-like device (transducer) sends
high-frequency sound waves into your neck. The sound waves pass
through tissue and then return, creating on-screen images that
delineate any narrowing or clotting in your carotid arteries.
This procedure gives a view of arteries in your brain not normally
seen in X-rays. Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube (catheter)
through a small incision, usually in your groin. The catheter is
manipulated through your major arteries and into your carotid or
vertebral artery. Then your doctor injects a dye through the
catheter to provide X-ray images of your arteries.
In computerized tomographic angiography (CTA), a dye is injected
into your vein and X-ray beams create a three-dimensional image of
the blood vessels in your neck and brain. CTA is used to look for
aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations and to evaluate for artery
narrowing. CT scanning, which is done without dye, can provide
images of your brain, but without as much detailed information about
the blood vessels.
resonance imaging (MRI).
Using a strong magnetic field, an MRI can generate a
three-dimensional view of your brain. This test is sensitive for
detecting an area of brain tissue damaged by an ischemic stroke.
Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) uses this magnetic field and a
dye injected into your veins to evaluate arteries in your neck and
Your doctor can use this ultrasound technology to compose images of
your heart. He or she may also use transesophageal echocardiography
(TEE) to create clear and detailed ultrasound images with a better
view of some things, such as blood clots, that might not be clearly
visible on a traditional echocardiogram.
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