Diagnosing a Stroke

To diagnose a stroke, health officials will ask you a series of questions – what symptoms you have, when they started, if you have any other health conditions, etc. They will also use some standard assessment tools to help assess how urgently you need treatment. 

If a stroke is suspected, further investigative tests will be done such as:

  • blood tests to check full blood count, electrolytes, renal function tests, fasting lipids, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and/or C-reactive protein, and glucose
  • electrocardiogram, to check heart rhythm
  • head CT scan 
  • selected patients may require the following additional investigations: angiography, chest x-ray, syphilis serology, vasculitis screen, prothrombotic screen and Holter monitor.

These tests should be performed as soon as possible after stroke onset, and in selected patients, some of these tests may need to be performed as an emergency procedure.

Treating a Stroke

Treatment for a stroke has improved dramatically over the last 5 to 10 years and early treatment is critical. In many cases a full recovery is possible.

  • The symptoms you have in the first few days after a stroke may not last forever. If your symptoms are going to improve, they usually do so in the first two months after you have a stroke.
  • Time is brain, meaning every minute counts and the longer brain cells are without oxygen, the more damage that is done. If treatment is started within a few hours, more brain cells can be saved. 

Where possible, strokes are now treated by specialist stroke units.

  • In most cases, strokes are treated with medication. In the acute phase, medicine may be given intravenously to help dissolve blood clots (acute stroke thrombolysis)
  • Sometimes surgery is needed to treat brain swelling or help reduce further bleeding in cases of haemorrhagic strokes.

In the recovery phase:

  • Medication is given to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Depending on the type of stroke and parts of the body affected, a range of rehabilitation support may be needed for weeks to months. 
  • Rehabilitation support can range from speech and language therapy to physical therapy and work retraining.
  • Lifestyle changes are also needed as above to improve diet, exercise levels, quit smoking, manage stress and more.