Stroke Training and Awareness Resources (STARs)

CT Scanning

photograph of CT scanner
Photograph of a CT scanner machine
  • Is usually one of the first tests carried out
  • A CT scan will help determine whether the stroke has been caused by insufficient blood flow (ischaemic stroke) or a ruptured blood vessel (haemorrhagic stroke)
  • It is vital to be able to establish whether the stroke was caused by a blockage or a bleed as the drug management is very different for each of these
  • A CT scan uses X-rays to take pictures of the skull and brain whilst the patient lies in a tunnel-like machine; the scanner produces images of the brain
  • A CT scan carried out within a couple of hours of an ischaemic stroke may not show any abnormalities but a haemorrhage shows up immediately; there are also some parts of the brain which a CT scan does not image well
  • A CT scan should be carried out within 12 hours of the patient arriving at the hospital following a suspected (new) stroke
two CT scan images showing stroke-damaged brain regions
CT scan showing an ischaemic stroke (left); CT scan showing a haemorrhagic stroke (right)

Page last reviewed: 10 Jan 2020