Having a Stroke can be frightening for both the patient and their loved ones. But having information about what is happening in the body when a stroke occurs as well as being informed about possible diagnostic tests will help prepare you for what steps may be taken in a hospital if you or a family member is taken to the emergency room for a suspected stroke.

First, a quick review: Remember, a stroke is a very dangerous event in which the brain is deprived from oxygen for some reason. A stroke can occur if an artery in the brain bursts or is clogged, which subsequently cuts off the oxygen in the brain.

stroke-testing-how-to-test-for-a-strokeAs we mentioned in an earlier article, if you have any indications that you or a loved one has suffered a stroke, it is important to call 911 for immediate medical attention so that if a stroke has occurred that you will be able to be taken to the hospital for treatment within 3 hours of the time that the symptoms first occurred. There are medications that can be given to alleviate some of the disabling problems of strokes, but ONLY if they are administered within the 3 hour time window from the time that the stroke symptoms first developed. So the message is, if in doubt, do not wait, call 911 immediately if you suspect a stroke.

Tests that are Conducted in the Emergency Room for a Suspected Stroke:

1. The ER doctor will perform a physical exam: (this will include among other things checking the blood pressure, pulse, heart, and eyes) The doctor will also perform a neurological examination. During a neuro exam the physician checks the patient’s level of consciousness, hearing, vision, relfexes and pain perception.
2. A CT Scan or (computed tomography) or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan will probably be ordered if the doctor suspects a stroke in order to view the area of the brain and extent of the injury to the brain if a stroke has occurred. There are also tests to measure blood flow that may be performed.
3. A medication called t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator) may be given (this is the medication that must be administered within 3 hours from the time that stroke symptoms began in order to use the medication).
T-PA is administered in a vein or IV or may also be injected directly into an artery. The medication is used to dissolve blood clots, and the reason that the CT Scan or MRI scan is done first, before giving the medication, is to make sure that there is no bleeding in the brain. It would be dangerous to give t-PA to a patient who has brain bleeding, or other bleeding problems, recent surgeries, bleeding ulcers that have recently been problematic, or brain cancer. Your physician will need to know the history of the patient in order to make the appropriate decision whether t-PA will be a good option for treatment.

It is important to tell the emergency room doctor or other doctor treating the patient exactly what type of symptoms were observed and what time they happened so that the medical team has the most complete information for making the best treatment plan for the patient. If someone you know experiences any kind of symptoms it is a good idea to write down exactly what you are observing, along with the times that the symptoms occurred. This can be a good tip in all kinds of medical emergencies, not just stroke, but in particular any stroke symptoms and cases should be addressed immediately by seeking medication attention.