A stroke happens when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted because a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts open. Brain cells deprived of blood and oxygen can die, causing permanent damage resulting in weakness or paralysis of an arm or leg or problems with speech. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

A stroke is a medical emergency. Immediate treatment can save lives and reduce disability. A person experiencing the symptoms of a stroke should have a complete physical and neurological exam. CT and MR imaging and nuclear medicine techniques are used to determine the type, location and cause of the stroke and to help rule out other disorders.

How does molecular imaging help people with a stroke?

SPECT imaging with the radiopharmaceutical Tc-99m is the most frequent nuclear medicine technique used for stroke detection.

In addition to detecting acute stroke, SPECT is also used in the evaluation of patients who have had a stroke and/or transient ischemic attack (TIA). During a TIA, which is also known as a mini-stroke, an individual experiences stroke-like symptoms that last from minutes up to several hours. Although TIAs do not typically result in permanent brain damage, physicians often use SPECT to determine which parts of the brain may be at risk.