Stroke Home > Identifying Strokes and Relieving Symptoms

How Is It Diagnosed?

In order to make a diagnosis, a healthcare provider will typically begin by asking a number of questions (such as those concerning the patient's medical history) and perform a physical exam. If the healthcare provider believes that a person has had a stroke, he or she may order additional tests. After a doctor has made a diagnosis, he or she may recommend other tests to help determine the cause of the stroke.
Some tests that doctors may use for diagnosing a stroke and/or identifying its cause include:
  • CT scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Carotid Doppler ultrasound
  • Carotid arteriography
  • Cerebral angiography (also known as a cerebral angiogram, cerebral arteriogram, or digital subtraction angiography)
  • Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Transcranial Doppler
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Electroencephalography (EEG).
(Click Diagnosing Stroke for more information on this topic. Click Stroke Tests for more information on the tests listed above.)


Each year, about 700,000 people in the United States have a stroke. Over 150,000 of these people die as a result, making it the third-most common cause of death in the U.S. Delaying treatment can result in lasting damage to your brain, or even death. The sooner treatment begins, the better your chances of recovering.
The goals of stroke treatment are to:
  • Quickly restore blood flow to the brain (in those people with an ischemic stroke) or stop the bleeding (in those people with hemorrhagic stroke)
  • Continuously monitor your vital signs to detect and treat stroke complications
  • Make lifelong changes to reduce the chances of another stroke.
Depending on the situation and the type of stroke (ischemic versus hemorrhagic), specific treatment options may include:
  • Medications, such as thrombolytic ("clot-busting") drugs
  • Surgery
  • Stroke rehabilitation and lifestyle changes.
(Click Stroke Treatment for more information on these treatments.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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