What’s Involved in Diagnosing Suspected Brain Injuries?

close up of brain scansWhen traumatic brain injuries occur, one may have spinal fluid leaking from the ears or nose or some other tell-tale signs that a serious brain injury took place. However, even with obvious signs and symptoms of a brain injury, any possible head trauma should be accurately diagnosed.

Doctors generally use imaging technology to help them determine the location of the brain injury and the severity of the injury. Two of the main imaging tests that doctors use to diagnose brain injuries include:

  • CT scan. A computed tomography (CT) scan uses x-ray technology and is usually the first test taken when a brain injury is suspected. The reason for this is that a CT scan is known to be a great tool in diagnosing injuries to the head and it is typically one of the fastest tests that can provide insight within minutes.
  • MRI test. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test uses powerful magnets and radio waves to scan the brain. While this type of test takes longer than a CT scan and costs more money, an MRI is generally more sensitive than a CT scan.

While these two tests are the most widely used tools in diagnosing brain injuries, head trauma can also be found through other assessments. Some of the other ways brain injuries can be diagnosed include:

  • fMRI test. A functional MRI (fMRI) test is similar to that of a regular MRI because it uses the same technology; however, a person performs tasks while inside the MRI scanner. This newer procedure looks at the tiny metabolic changes taking place in the brain and allows doctors to see how an injured brain is working and which part of the brain is active and handling critical functions.
  • SPECT scan. A single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scan is a test that uses a special camera and radioactive substance to create 3-D pictures to give doctors an inside look at internal organs. This test will produce images that show what area of the brain is less or more active.
  • DTI test. A diffuse tensor imaging (DTI) test can be done alongside an MRI. It looks at how water travels along the white matter tracks of the brain in order to see the brain network connectivity.
  • PET scan. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan uses a special camera, computer, and radiotracers (small amounts of radioactive materials) to look at how well one’s tissues and organs are functioning. Sometimes this type of imaging test is done in conjunction with a CT scan.

Tests and technologies, like those listed above, definitely help physicians diagnose suspected brain injuries. In addition to these tests, a doctor may also have a neuropsychologist conduct an assessment to evaluate a patient’s motor skills and cognitive functioning.

If you know of anyone who has suffered any type of head trauma, please share this article by clicking on your favorite social media site. You never know who can benefit from reading this useful information in order to ensure a correct diagnosis after suffering a head injury.