Skip to main content

Tests

  • The following are some of the tests you may have during your hospital stay.

    Blood tests

    These are used to look for stroke risks or conditions that may have led to your stroke. Blood tests are done to check:

    • your cholesterol levels
    • how your blood clots, such as partial thromboplastin time test ( PTT) and international normalized ratio ( INR)
    • if you have diabetes by looking at your blood glucose levels
    • the level(s) of medicine in your blood

    Swallow tests

    You may have problems with swallowing or moving your mouth. This can make you cough or choke on food or drinks. Swallow tests are used to help find the cause of these problems.

    There are two types of swallow tests:

    • at your hospital bed:
      A speech-language pathologist or nurse will watch you eat foods and drink liquids. This will help tell if other tests are needed, or what foods and liquids are safest for you.
    • video swallow:
      You will swallow some barium (a white liquid that shows up on X-ray) to simulate "normal" eating. A video X-ray is taken as you swallow the barium.

      A radiologist and speech-language pathologist can study your ability to swallow. He or she will check for aspiration (if food and liquids are going into your windpipe).

    Imaging tests

    These are done to find the area of the brain affected by the stroke, make an early prognosis and rule out other medical conditions.

    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
      This is a painless way to look inside your body without using X-rays. MRI does not use radiation.

      MRI uses a magnetic field to make three-dimensional (3-D) images of your brain. These images show the injured areas of your brain. This can help your health care team determine how serious your stoke was.

      If you have a pacemaker or if you have metal fragments in your head, you may not be able to have this scan.
    • Carotid ultrasound
      This painless, safe test uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of your arteries and blood flow on a computer screen. This lets your health care provider see if your arteries are narrowed or damaged.

      Ultrasound is most often done on the carotid arteries in your neck. Ultrasound does not use radiation and has no side effects.
    • Trans cranial doppler 
      This is an ultrasound that measures blood flow through the major vessels in your brain.
    • Magnetic resonance angiogram 
      This test uses MRI technology to get a 3-D view of your blood vessels.
    • Angiogram
      This uses X-ray to see your blood vessels. A radiologist (doctor of X-ray) inserts a tube (catheter) into an artery in your groin and threads it to the arteries in your neck and head. He or she injects contrast into your blood vessels to help them show up on the X-ray. This test also helps rule out problems with blood vessels in the neck and brain.

    Tip

    Members of your health care team will make you as comfortable as possible. Tell someone if you are uncomfortable in closed-in spaces.

    Heart tests

    Heart problems increase your risk of having a stroke. Common heart problems include:

    Some of the most common tests used to check your heart are:

    • Blood tests
      Certain enzymes and proteins are released when your heart is damaged. Your health care provider can use these tests to tell if you had a heart attack.
    • Echocardiogram (echo)
      This is an ultrasound study of your heart muscle, heart valves and pericardium (the sac surrounding your heart). This painless test uses sound waves to see how well your heart is working.

      A wand-like instrument makes the sound waves. As the ultrasound wand is moved over your chest, pictures of your heart appear on a screen and are recorded.
    • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
      This test records the electrical activity of your heart. Small patches (discs) attached to your chest "pick up" the electrical activity from your heart. This activity goes through wires to the EKG machine where it is recorded on a moving strip of paper. This test is painless.
    • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
      This records ultrasound images of your heart. The transducer, about the size of a normal piece of food, is mounted on the end of a flexible tube, about the size of your index finger. The tube is placed in your mouth and guided down your esophagus (swallowing tube).

      You will be given medicine to help numb the back of your throat. This will make swallowing the tube easier.

      The TEE gives excellent pictures of your heart because your heart is next to your esophagus.
    • Contrast echo (bubble study)
      Saline (salt water) solution is injected into an arm vein. Ultrasound tracks the solution as it flows through your heart. This will let him or her see if there is an abnormal opening between the right and left sides of your heart. This test is painless.

    Tip

    After the TEE, members of your health care team will make sure you can safely swallow before you can eat or drink.

  • Source: Allina Health Patient EducationUnderstanding Stroke, fifth edition, neuro-ahc-90662
    Reviewed by: Allina Health Patient Education experts
    First published: 02/01/2006
    Last reviewed: 05/01/2018