To diagnose a stroke, tests such as CT scans and MRIs may be necessary. Certain blood tests (such as a fasting lipid panel) can help identify risk factors for a stroke, while other blood tests (such as a complete blood count) can help determine the cause of a stroke. Other tests may include cerebral angiography, carotid Doppler ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
An Overview of Stroke Tests
If a healthcare provider believes that a person is having a stroke, there are a number of tests that he or she may recommend. Some of these tests help determine whether possible stroke symptoms are actually being caused by a stroke or by another medical condition.
Once a doctor has diagnosed a stroke, he or she may recommend other tests to identify the cause of a stroke. In addition, doctors use some stroke screening tests to look for problems before a stroke happens. Finally, a number of these tests may be used for multiple purposes, such as for screening for stroke risk factors or determining the cause once a stroke has occurred.
We will discuss these different stroke tests, including:
- Blood tests
- Common imaging tests used to diagnose a stroke
- Other tests doctors may recommend for screening, diagnosis, or for determining the cause of the stroke.
Blood Tests for Stroke
Healthcare providers may use blood tests to look for stroke risk factors along with certain conditions that may mimic stroke symptoms. These blood tests may include:
- A blood glucose test that checks your blood sugar level. Diabetes is a risk factor for stroke. Also, both low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can mimic the symptoms of a stroke.
- A fasting lipid panel to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High cholesterol is a risk factor for a stroke.
- A complete blood count (CBC) to look for certain causes of stroke, such as low platelets, anemia (including sickle cell anemia), or high white blood cells (from leukemia).
- A syphilis test. Late-stage syphilis (tertiary syphilis) is a known cause of stroke.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed rate) to check for inflammation. There are several conditions that cause inflammation of blood vessels that can lead to a stroke. One example is temporal arteritis (also known as giant cell arteritis).