What is computed tomography angiography (CTA) for stroke diagnosis?

Computed tomography angiography (CTA) is high-speed CT scanning that uses an intravenous injection of contrast dye to differentiate flowing arterial blood from the surrounding tissue. This technique can safely and reliably study the major arteries supplying the brain and detect the type and location of the problem causing a stroke. It can differentiate ischemic from hemorrhagic stroke and help diagnose an aneurysm in an artery at the base of the brain in people with subarachnoid hemorrhage. To some extent, this technology can also distinguish which areas of the brain suffer from reduced blood flow and are at risk of infarction. In addition, this is the best and safest noninvasive method to diagnose a ruptured or unruptured berry aneurysm.

At many medical centers, CTA scanning is done immediately on anyone suspected of having had a stroke. High-speed small-slice CT scanning and special micro-area analysis techniques, learned from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) analysis of brain blood flow, have helped doctors in determining which area of the brain is deprived of blood enough to cause it to die. Refinements in these techniques can also help assess the risk of bleeding associated with thrombolytic (clot-dissolving) therapy.

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