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Doctors Using Magnetic Resonance Scans To Detect Signs Of Strokes

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PINEHURST, N.C. — If you are at risk for a stroke or have had a stroke, quick detection is the key to survival. A new technique is helping doctors to better detect problems.

Every 53 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke.They can strike without warning, but there are often warning signs such as dizziness, loss of balance and the loss of mobility in the arms or legs.

Doctors usually perform angiography to determine if there is a blockage in the arteries leading to the brain.

With traditional angiography, they thread a catheter through the groin and into the artery. They then inject dye and take X-rays to see if there is blockage. Catheter angiography does have risks, including stroke in about two percent of patients.

Doctors at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital are using magnetic resonance (MR) angiography, a fairly new procedure that does not carry the risk of stroke. Radiologists inject a fluid called gadolinium into the blood stream and do an MR scan. Dr. Stephan Strasser can then examine the scans for signs of blockage.

"The quality of it is identical to carotid angiography with a catheter," he said.

At FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, doctors have used traditional catheter angiography for two and a half years. Now, they only use the MR scanner. As its popularity grows more and more, medical centers are making the switch.

The procedure lasts around 30 minutes. Early studies show that the MR scans are also less expensive than catheter angiography.