Preventing Stroke with TCD Ultrasound
During most pregnancies, the doctor will request an ultrasound to make sure everything is okay and to determine the sex of the baby. For people with high risk pregnancies, like mine, those ultrasounds become a ritual. In fact, because of my stroke history my doctor ordered an ultrasound every four weeks throughout my pregnancy. He was checking to make sure my baby was growing properly and wasn't stressed. He was also making sure there was no internal bleeding due to the Lovenox, the blood thinner I was taking at the time. I didn't mind so much because I got the chance to see my little Annabelle through all her stages of growth, and the three and four dimensional ultrasounds were the best, at least when she would cooperate. It gave me an awesome view of my baby; an almost real look in color, unlike the skeletal black and white images.
It always amazed me when I would watch the technicians work. They would click this and click that to monitor every aspect of the life inside of me. It was just a bunch of mumbo jumbo to me and everything looked the same, especially early on when Annabelle looked like a jellybean. But the technicians and doctors know exactly what they are looking at and can hopefully catch a problem early on to keep both mom and baby safe, which is exactly what this type of technology is designed to do. So, it doesn't surprise me that a form of this technology is being used to help prevent stroke.
It's called the Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound or TCD. I was reading about it on one of our local hospital websites, and it's not exactly new but it is now being offered in our area to patients at risk for stroke. TCD is a painless, non-invasive screening to examine the blood circulation within the brain. It's a form of ultrasound where high frequency sound waves bounce off or pass through body tissue to measure the rate and direction of blood flow in vessels. The radiologist is able to calculate the speed at which the blood flows. The sound waves are recorded and displayed on a computer screen. The information gathered during the screening helps evaluate the risk of stroke or a patient's progress after a stroke. The information is used to locate restrictions in blood vessels in the brain and track changes in blood flow over time.
Patients who have this done can expect to lie on a padded table or sit in a chair during the screening. A small amount of water-soluble gel is usually applied on the back of the neck, above the cheekbone, in front of the ear and over the eyelid. Then a small device called a transducer is held in place on the skin's surface until the blood flow information has been recorded. Doctors say there is virtually no discomfort during the test. You do have to keep your head still and avoid talking during the test, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
TCD ultrasound images help in the diagnosis of a wide range of conditions affecting blood flow to the brain and within the brain. I especially like the fact that it's just another preventative measure, used to hopefully stop a stroke before it happens. The TCD ultrasound can also be used to monitor blood flow in the brain during surgical procedures.