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Detecting a Stroke with MRI

June 21, 2019

We’ll get an MRI and an MRI, which is by far and away our most sensitive tool for detecting stroke. It comes in two parts. The first is the MR image itself, the MRI, and that’s going to show us the brain. And on that, that’s about a 30 to 45 minute test in a big tube. So you have to sit still to get a good picture. But keep in mind, MRIs are giant magnets, there’s no radiation exposure. And again, we can see a pinpoint size stroke that we would never see with any other tool. On top of that we can see new strokes and old strokes. So there are different, basically a stroke within the first 10 days looks different than a stroke that’s 30 days old, which looks different than a stroke that’s four years old. So we can actually sort of differentiate between different ages of strokes, often not perfectly, but to a large degree. Number two, the second part of the MRI, something called an MR Angiogram. And the idea here is that actually we’re looking at blood vessels of the brain. And actually blood vessels from the heart all the way up. And there’s a few different ways for us to do that. So the most common way here at Tucson Medical Center is with an MR Angiogram. There is something called a CT angiogram, and there’s also a carotid ultrasound and we’re all sort of trying to answer of similar questions with each test. With an MR Angiogram, you’re in the big tube and you’re just sitting still and you don’t have to do anything. The people who are doing the MRI can essentially adjust the MRI to, instead of looking at stationary tissue, they will look at moving things. So everything that’s moving gets picked up and the things that are stationary you can’t see. And so all of a sudden the arteries light up and you can see them very well.

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