How can you tell if someone had a stroke without an MRI?

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 08, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

If a person has a pacemaker and cannot have an MRI, are there any other ways to determine if they had a stroke?

Expert Answers

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Aside from the physicians clinical impression, another diagnostic approach would be to get a CT of the brain. These are not nearly as good as MRI scan for detecting small strokes, but can be helpful, particularly if the stroke is large. Roughly 48 hours onset of symptoms, a CT should detect about 1/2 to 2/3 of all ischemic strokes (as opposed to bleeding strokes). Prior to 48 hours, that number is smaller, approaching 0 if done immediately at the onset of symptoms.

As you can see, CT can sometimes be helpful, but should not be relied upon entirely if MRI is not possible. A good clinician's judgement, however, when used in combination with a CT, should detect most strokes.

Community Answers

Min answered...

the best way seems to be to have a vascular scan of the neck. my doctor at hospital thought this might be a good idea,so i had it,and the right side of my neck was 80 % blocked with a stone like substance. i had it removed and am sort of ok,apart from bad effects from the operation.good luck,miriam

Jeannetta answered...

Over the past 5 yrs I've had numerous odd sensations that my doctor couldn't figure out what it was but asked me to keep him informed. That Dr. retired. Later I had a CT scan that was ok. Last spring when I stood up quickly in my Oncologist office I felt light headed. She ordered an MRI & found that I've had several mini strokes. So I believe that any time you have unexplained sensations & you're not sick, you should ask your doctor about a scan. A vascular scan was done on both sides of my neck & 1 side is 20% blocked, the other is 40% blocked. That scan will be repeated in 1 yr. I'm working on keeping my cholesterol under control. I have a terrible addiction to sugar but not diabetic. Jeanetta

Happy w/o carbs answered...

Terrible addiction to sugar could signal candidiasis in digestive tract. Though lab test did not detect significant amount in my digestive tract, my GP said that is not a foolproof diagnostic tool. So i took a 7 day round of super heavy duty emergency level probiotics and the sugar/carbohydrate craving went away. I avoid things like fruit, carbs, sugar and anything white (potatoes, rice, pasta) or that is processed and easily converts to sugar. I am a different person.