Types of Stroke and their Diagnosis
A stroke occurs when the flow of blood gets cut off to a part of your brain. It means that the brain cannot receive oxygen and without that, the brain cells can get damaged within minutes. That is why it’s important for you to reach the hospital if you think you are having a stroke.
Symptoms of stroke can be different for different people. You can check symptoms of stroke by many methods. If one side of the face sags on smiling or if you raise both arms and see one arm dropping, or if you sound strange/slurred, you may be having a stroke. If you experience any such signs then visit the hospital right away and also note what time the symptoms started.
Once you reach the hospital your doctor will want to rule out other possible conditions that may have caused your symptoms of the stroke including a seizure, migraine, low blood sugar or a heart problem. The doctor will perform a physical exam to check how alert you are or if you feel numb and weak in any part of the body. He will also check your blood pressure and listen to the heartbeat. He may also ask about your medical history. The doctor will ask you to get a few laboratory tests to figure out which type of stroke you might have had.
There are two types of strokes:
- Ischemic stroke: This is a common type of stroke. Most of the people who have this stroke, it is because a clot blocks the blood flow. If you have this type then the doctor will give you a clot-busting drug. These are given within 3-4 hours of the stroke. You can take aspirin or other medicines to keep your blood thin and to keep the clot from increasing. Another option is to get the clot removed when you reach the hospital. The doctor will use a device called stent which is a thread sent up to the artery to grab the clot or will suction it out with a tube. They may also use a tiny flexible tube also called a catheter which allows them to send drugs up to the brain where the clot is present.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: This stroke occurs when you have bleeding in your brain. The doctor will try to find and control the bleeding. In case you had taken any blood thinners, they will take you off them. They will try to find what caused the stroke. Very common reason for this type of stroke is high blood pressure; if this is the reason then the doctor will give you a medicine to lower it. Another reason can be an aneurysm, in this case then the doctor will clamp the broken vessel to close it, or will thread the tiny coil through it so that it helps to keep the blood vessels from bursting again.
Laboratory tests that the doctor may ask for these types of strokes are:
- Complete blood count: This lab test is a blood test to check the level of hemoglobin, blood cells counts, and platelets that help the blood clot.
- KFT: This measures the levels of urea, creatine, and electrolytes, It helps to assess whether the kidney is functioning normally.
- Coagulation testing: This is a pair of tests called prothrombin time (PT) and partial thromboplastin time. (PTT) to see how quickly the blood clots. If it takes longer then it can be a sign of bleeding problems.
- CT (Computerized Tomography) scan: The doctor may ask you to get several x-rays from different angles and put them together to check for any bleeding in your brain or damage to the brain cells. The doctor may put a dye in the vein to look for an aneurysm.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): In this test, it uses powerful magnets and radio waves to take a detailed picture of the brain as it can show injuries earlier and it is sharper than a traditional CT scan.
- Carotid ultrasound: This test uses the sound waves to find the clot deposits that may have been narrowed or blocked the arteries that carry blood to the brain.
- Echocardiogram: Sometimes when the clot forms in other parts of the body, it may travel to the brain. This imaging test of the heart looks for clots in the heart or in the enlarged part of the heart.
- Angiograms of the head and neck: The doctor puts dye in your blood to see the blood vessels with x-rays so that it can help find the blockage or an aneurysm.