Diagnosis & Treatment

How Doctors Diagnose Arterial Dissections

Doctors often use one or more of the procedures listed below to detect and diagnose an arterial dissection. A prompt diagnosis is vital because the greatest risk of a stroke occurs in the first few weeks after an artery tears.

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: The procedure combines a series of X-rays taken from various angles, uses computer processing to create images of cross-sections of blood vessels, providing more detailed information than standard X-rays.
  • Angiography: This is a medical imaging technique that visualizes the interior of arteries. A fluid is injected into the veins to create a contrast that allows X-rays to more accurately deliver a detailed image of the arteries.
  • Ultrasound: This technique uses a transducer to emits high-frequency sound, recording the echoes as the sound waves bounce back to determine the size, shape, and consistency of the arteries.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging is a scan that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the arteries.
  • MRA: A magnetic resonance angiogram is a type of MRI scan that uses pulses of radio wave energy and a magnetic field to provide pictures of arteries.
  • Echocardiography: Often called an echo, this is a type of sonogram that uses two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and Doppler ultrasound to create images of the arteries.

How Doctors Diagnose Stroke

A doctor should perform a physical exam to diagnose a stroke if you exhibit some or all of the signs and symptoms listed below. If you’ve already been diagnosed with an arterial dissection, your doctor should be aware of this medical history.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute lists the following signs and symptoms of a stroke:

  • Sudden weakness
  • Paralysis (an inability to move) or numbness of the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Problems breathing
  • Dizziness, trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination, and unexplained falls
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sudden and severe headache

Once you’ve been diagnosed with a stroke, there are several treatment options: