There are several types of tests your doctor may perform to best understand your condition, what type of damage was caused, and what the best course of treatment should be.

Blood Tests

Your doctor will most likely take a blood sample from you to check for blood sugar levels, cholesterol, hormone levels, and other essential chemicals found in your blood. These tests will also help guide your treatment. Some blood tests include:

  • complete blood count
  • bleeding time
  • blood clotting tests
  • cholesterol levels

Computerized Tomography

A computerized tomography (CT) scan involves capturing images of your brain. These images help determine the kind of stroke that occurred, the part of the brain affected, and the extent of the damage done during the stroke. However, CT may not show damage if the CT scan is taking very early in the stroke process. Therefore, the vast majority of patients will also get an MRI to determine the extent of stroke damage.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This test checks your heart to see if an irregular heartbeat caused the stroke. Atrial fibrillation— irregular beating of the upper two chambers of the heart—can lead to a stroke.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This 3-D map of your brain is created by magnetic fields and radio waves to help your doctor view damage to the brain caused by a stroke. A similar type of imaging, magnetic resonance angiography, uses dye that has been injected into your blood vessels to view potential problems with veins in your brain and other areas.

Carotid Ultrasound

Also called carotid duplex, this painless procedure uses a wand-like device to view arteries in your neck. It helps determine if narrowing of the neck arteries contributed to the stroke.

Arteriography

During this test, you doctor will make a small incision—typically in the groin—to insert a thin catheter into the hole and through your major arteries. After this, he or she will inject dye that will show up on X-rays of your arteries.

Echocardiography

Using similar ultrasound technology used for pregnant women, your doctor can view your heart while looking for a clot that may have traveled from your heart to your brain.

Transesophageal Echocardiography

During this procedure, you swallow a small probe that travels down your throat and behind your heart. The probe contains a small transducer that provides clear images of your heart.