Rapid but precise evaluation of patients presenting with cerebral infarction is essential to determine immediate intervention. Initial assessment should include history taking, physical examination, routine laboratory testing, electrocardiography, chest radiology, and noncontrast head CT. Localizing the event to the appropriate arterial circulation (anterior versus posterior) and determining topography (subcortical versus cortical) guide sequential testing to ascertain the mechanism of cerebral infarction. Diagnostic testing focuses on selectively identifying potential cardiac, large-vessel, small-vessel, or hematologic causes. Although diagnostic tools are evolving, 15% of cerebral infarctions still have an unknown cause or multiple potential sources.
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