Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Stroke diagnosis

Anyone who has symptoms of a stroke needs immediate medical attention, preferably in an emergency department or hospital with the specialised equipment required to diagnose and treat stroke.

Strokes are usually diagnosed by studying images of the brain (brain imaging) and carrying out a physical examination. If you need to see a doctor in connection with a stroke - or your risk of having a stroke - they may also check your blood pressure and your heart for any underlying problems.

Physical examination

Your doctor may start by asking questions to check you are alert and that your speech is coherent. You can also expect to be asked questions about your lifestyle and medical history to identify any risk factors for stroke.

The doctor will examine you to see if your body shows signs of a stroke. This will involve checking:

  • your airway and breathing
  • your reflexes, muscle strength, senses, and coordination
  • your neck, to listen for sounds from any blockages of the arteries
  • your blood pressure
  • your heart, for abnormal rhythm or heart disease
  • your lungs, for any abnormalities

Blood tests

Your doctor may investigate the causes of your stroke by taking blood tests to determine your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, whether you have anaemia (low haemoglobin in the blood), inflammation, or high levels of chemicals such as potassium.

CT and MRI scans

Even if the physical symptoms of a stroke are obvious, brain imaging should also be carried out to determine:

Different treatment is required for each type of stroke, so a rapid diagnosis will make treatment more straightforward.

Tests that are commonly used include a computer tomography (CT) scan, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and an angiogram.

A CT scan is like an x-ray but uses multiple images to build up a more detailed, three-dimensional picture of your brain.

An MRI scan uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce a detailed picture of the inside of your body.

An angiogram involves injecting dye into your blood vessels through a thin tube, usually in your groin, which makes them visible using an x-ray.

All patients with suspected stroke should receive an urgent brain scan within 24 hours.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram (ECG), a type of heart test, is recommended for all stroke patients.

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) checks for a blood clot or enlargement of one of the chambers of the heart. This may pinpoint the cause of a stroke.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about a stroke diagnosis, why not use healthdirect's online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 316 results

Alzheimer's Australia | Early diagnosis of dementia

The importance of early diagnosis of dementia and information about the diagnosis process. This information may be helpful to people who have concerns about dementia or to those who are concerned about their family members or friends.

Read more on Alzheimer's Australia website

Stroke

A stroke occurs when an artery supplying blood to a part of the brain becomes blocked or bursts.

Read more on WA Health website

Alzheimer's Australia | Diagnosing dementia

Information about the early signs of dementia, the importance of early and correct diagnosis and the ways in which it is diagnosed. What are the early signs of dementia? The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Early symptoms also vary a great deal. Usually though, people first seem to notice that there is a problem with memory, particularly in remembering recent events. Other common symptoms include:

Read more on Alzheimer's Australia website

Depression and anxiety after stroke

Having a stroke can result in many changes. On a physical level, it can lead to people finding it difficult to move and swallow. Having a stroke can also cause stress, worry and sadness, and affect the way in which people think and feel. There is a strong link between depression, anxiety and stroke.

Read more on beyondblue website

Perinatal stroke | myVMC

Perinatal stroke refers to impaired blood flow to the brain which occurs shortly before or after or during childbirth. It may occur in the mother or baby.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Stroke (Cerebrovascular accident; CVA) | myVMC

Stroke or cerebrovascular accident may be haemorrhagic when there is bleeding in the brain, or ischaemic when blood does not flow to the brain.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

TIA: transient ischaemic attack - myDr.com.au

A TIA (transient ischaemic attack), also called a mini-stroke or temporary stroke, is when there is a temporary block in the blood supply to a part of the brain.

Read more on myDr website

High blood pressure should be treated - myDr.com.au

Having hypertension (high blood pressure) increases your risk of serious conditions such as stroke and heart attack. Find out when to have your blood pressure checked and what to do if yours is high.

Read more on myDr website

Vascular dementia - myDr.com.au

Vascular dementia describes problems with reasoning, planning, judgement, memory and other thinking skills that interfere with daily life.

Read more on myDr website

What Is Headache - Headache Australia

One of the Most Common Symptoms Experienced by Humans. Headache is one of the commonest symptoms experienced by humans. In fact, it is quite unusual not to have at least an occasional headache. Why some people never experience headache is not known. It is probably linked with their inheritance of the chemical transmitters that pass... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback