Patients and their families are understandably very concerned about what specific abilities will be lost or affected by stroke. Stroke effects are difficult to assess, because the brain is an incredibly complex organ, and each area has responsibility for a particular function or ability.
The nature and extent the stroke effects depends upon the extent of injury and where the stroke occurred. Strokes that occur in the right side of the brain affect movement of the left side of the body and can interfere with analytical and perceptual tasks. Strokes that occur in the left side of the brain can affect the movement of the right side of the body and can influence speech and language abilities.
Strokes that occur in the cerebellum can cause abnormal reflexes of the head and torso, coordination problems, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Strokes that occur in the brain stem can affect life-support functions, such as breathing rate, blood pressure and heartbeat, as well as other functions such as vision, swallowing and articulation.
Read more about stroke effects from the National Stroke Association.
Physicians have several diagnostic techniques and imaging tools to help diagnose the cause of stroke quickly and accurately to mitigate stroke effects.
The first step in diagnosis is a neurological examination. When a possible stroke patient arrives at a hospital, a health care professional, usually a doctor or nurse, will ask the patient or a companion what happened and when the symptoms began. Blood tests, an electrocardiogram and a brain scan, such CT or MRI, will often be done.
One test that helps doctors judge the severity of a stroke is the standardized National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale. Health care professionals use the NIH Stroke Scale to measure a patient's neurological deficits by asking the patient to answer questions and to perform several physical and mental tests. Other scales can also be used to measure the severity of a stroke.
Methods to evaluate the effects of a stroke:
Peripheral vascular studies, also known as “doppler ultrasound."
This noninvasive procedure can detect blockages that may be present in the carotid arteries by detecting an increased velocity of red blood cells over narrowed sites. The test measures the blood flow through the artery to determine the amount of stenosis (blockage), plaque or irregularities in the artery.
This noninvasive test conducted on your heart transmits pulses of sound into the body, then electronically plots and records the echoes returning from the surfaces of the heart. It measures the function and strength of the heart muscles and valves to detect whether or not a blood clot in the heart or on the heart valves is the source of the stroke.
TEE (Transesophageal Echocardiogram)
In this test a tube containing a special sensor device is inserted into the esophagus (through the mouth) to evaluate the function of the heart and find the source of the blood clot.
These studies involve drawing and analyzing the blood to determine your body's ability to coagulate (or clot).
CT (Computed Tomography) scan
A CT is the most commonly used diagnostic technique for acute stroke. If a stroke is caused by hemorrhage, a CT can show evidence of bleeding into the brain almost immediately after stroke symptoms appear. It can occasionally show a tumor that might mimic a stroke and may even show evidence of early infarction (the death of tissue due to inadequate blood supply) .
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
MRI scanning is very helpful in detecting stroke and displaying the extent of brain damage that has occurred. Because the MRI ignores bone which can obstruct CT images, this device provides a clearer picture of tumors located near the bone, and can provide a wider variety of image angles. It can detect edema (swelling), but has difficulty distinguishing edema from a tumor, and will not be able to detect the specific type of tumor.
This is a procedure in which a contrast dye is injected into the blood vessels that supply the brain. An angiogram is the best way to detect an aneurysm or other vascular malformation.
Learn more about:
What is a Stroke?
Types of Strokes
Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke