JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Acute stroke diagnosis

Kenneth S Yew, Eric Cheng
American Family Physician 2009 July 1, 80 (1): 33-40
19621844
Stroke can be categorized as ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Awakening with or experiencing the abrupt onset of focal neurologic deficits is the hallmark of ischemic stroke diagnosis. The most common presenting symptoms for ischemic stroke are difficulty with speech and weakness on one half of the body. Many stroke mimics exist; two of the most common are a postictal seizure and hypoglycemia. Taking a detailed history and performing ancillary testing will usually exclude stroke mimics. Neuroimaging is required to differentiate ischemic stroke from intracerebral hemorrhage, as well as to diagnose entities other than stroke. The choice of neuroimaging depends on its availability, eligibility for acute stroke interventions, and the presence of patient contraindications. Subarachnoid hemorrhage presents most commonly with severe headache and may require analysis of cerebrospinal fluid when neuroimaging is not definitive. Public education of common presenting stroke symptoms is needed for patients to activate emergency medical services as soon as possible after the onset of stroke.

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