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Brain scans and tests
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My Stroke Guide

A stroke is a medical emergency. If you think you or someone else has stroke symptoms, think FAST and call 999. Ambulance paramedics are trained in stroke and will take you to the best hospital for specialist treatment.

There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year. That's around one stroke every five minutes. But no two strokes are the same, which means there is no set pattern for recovering from one. It also depends on the type of stroke you have and the stroke services that are available in your area.

How well you recover and how long it takes is also different for everyone, but making sure that you receive treatment quickly will give you the best possible chance of making a good recovery.


Stroke diagnosis and treatment during coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

At this time, hospitals are working in new ways to deliver emergency treatment and post-stroke care while avoiding infection. Read our latest information about post-stroke care to find out more.

If you have a suspected stroke, you'll be taken to a hospital with a specialist stroke unit.

When you first arrive at the hospital, you will need to have tests to confirm that you have had a stroke and make sure that you receive the right emergency treatment. The quicker your stroke is diagnosed and treated, the better your recovery will be.

Brain scans and tests

When you have a suspected stroke, doctors carry out tests to confirm the stroke. They also carry out tests and checks for health problems that could cause a stroke, such as high blood pressure. They give treatment for these conditions to reduce the chances of having another stroke.

You should have a brain scan soon after symptoms start, within an hour of arriving at hospital if possible. The scan can show whether the stroke is due to a clot or a bleed. There are two main types of scan used:

  • A computed tomography or CT scan
  • A magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan.

The results of your brain scan will help your doctors to identify what may have caused your stroke and ensure you get the right emergency treatment.

Other tests

There are a number of other tests that you may receive during your first few days in hospital.

  • Blood pressure: if you have high blood pressure, you may need treatment to reduce your risk of another stroke.
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG): can show if an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation may have caused your stroke.
  • Cholesterol: if you have high cholesterol, you could be offered statins.
  • Blood sugar: diabetes is a major risk factor for stroke, so you may need treatment and advice to manage it.

Find out more

My Stroke Guide

My Stroke Guide is our online stroke support tool to guide you through your stroke journey. Easy-to-read information, with advice and videos from the Stroke Association to explain everything you need to know after a stroke. And our chat forum can connect you to others to find out how they manage their recovery.

Join hundreds of stroke survivors. Log on to My Stroke Guide today.