Neurologic Diagnostic Imaging

Diagnostic tests and procedures are vital tools that help physicians confirm or rule out the presence of a neurological disorder or other medical condition.

Neurological examinations

Neurological examination assess your motor and sensory skills, the functioning of cranial nerves, hearing and speech, vision, coordination and balance, mental status, and changes in mood or behavior, among other abilities. Diagnostic tools including a tuning fork, flashlight, reflex hammer, ophthalmoscope, and needles are used to help diagnose:

  • Brain tumors
  • Infections such as encephalitis and meningitis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Epilepsy

Some tests require the services of a specialist to perform and analyze results.

CT scan (computer tomography)

Neurological CT scans are used to view the brain and spine. They can detect bone and vascular irregularities, certain brain tumors and cysts, herniated discs, epilepsy, encephalitis, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), a blood clot or intracranial bleeding in patients with stroke, brain damage from head injury, and other disorders. Many neurological disorders share certain characteristics and a CT scan can aid in proper diagnosis by differentiating the area of the brain affected by the disorder. Learn more about CT scans.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

Magnetic resonance imaging uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field instead of x-rays to provide clear, detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. MRI helps physicians to diagnose brain tumors or eye and inner ear problems. Learn more about MRI.

PET scanning (positron emission tomography)

PET is an imaging procedure that gives information not available through CT, MRI, X-ray, blood test or physical examination. In neurology, PET is able to detect early signs of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, epilepsy and other disorders, even before some symptoms occur, making a critical difference in their treatment and management. Learn more about PET scanning.

Electromyography (EMG)

Electromyography, or EMG, is used to diagnose nerve and muscle dysfunction and spinal cord disease. It records the electrical activity from the brain and/or spinal cord to a peripheral nerve root (found in the arms and legs) that controls muscles during contraction and at rest. Learn more about electromyography.

Somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP)

Somatosensory evoked potential, or SSEP, is a test that shows the electrical signals of sensation going from the body to the brain. The signals show whether the nerves that connect to the spinal cord are able to send and receive sensory information like pain, temperature, and touch. This test is ordered by your physician when he or she wants to evaluate a number of neurological problems, including spinal cord injuries, optic neuritis, multiple sclerosis and acoustic neuroma. Learn more about SSEP.

Electroencephalography (EEG)

Electroencephalography, or EEG, monitors brain activity through the skull. EEG is used to help diagnose certain seizure disorders, brain tumors, brain damage from head injuries, inflammation of the brain and/or spinal cord, alcoholism, certain psychiatric disorders, and metabolic and degenerative disorders that affect the brain. EEGs are also used to evaluate sleep disorders, monitor brain activity when a patient has been fully anesthetized or loses consciousness, and confirm brain death. Learn more about EEG.

Transcranial Doppler

Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography is a noninvasive technology that uses the Doppler Effect to measure the velocity and direction of blood flow in the vessels. It is a non-invasive method that allows physicians to define moment-to-moment changes in cerebral blood flow velocities. Learn more about transcranial Doppler.

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