Brains scans were first used in the 1970s when CT (computed tomography) scans began to be used to look at the structure of the brain and other parts of the body. Now there are many types of scans available and they have transformed medicine. Brain scans are accurate and non invasive and have been shown to be a cost-effective imaging tool for a wide range of clinical problems. But why are brain scans done? What types of scans are there? Are they painful? These and other frequently asked questions are answered in this sharepost.
Why are Brain Scans Used?
A brain scan (neuro imaging) is an investigation that your doctor or specialist will refer you for. The scan results are used as an important diagnostic tool for symptoms that may be Alzheimer's disease. At the present time Alzheimer's disease can only be confirmed at autopsy but our knowledge of what Alzheimer's is, and what might cause it, is being strongly influenced by this type of technology. Brain scans can:
- Help identify structural changes in the brain such as atrophy (tissue death), tumors, hemorrhage, bone trauma or calcification.
- Dyes can be administered with a brain scan so they can track and identify blood supply abnormalities in the brain to exclude them as the cause of the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
- Cutting edge brain scan technology can look at in-time changes in the brain that occur during motor movement, during behavioral changes or during radical changes in electrical activity in the brain due to epileptic type seizures.
- In preventative medicine, brain scans, as part of whole body scans, are increasingly being offered as a tool for preventative medicine. As before, these can identify changes in the brain that may indicate early Alzheimer's.
- Brain scans are also being used for research into Alzheimer's. They look at structural changes at the different stages of the disease. More recently, advanced scans have been used to look at the genetic variants that may play a role in the disease. They can also, for instance, look at changes that occur in the brain linked to behavior, plaque build up and brain shrinkage.
What are the Different Types of Brain Scans Called?
The technology of scanning the body is evolving all the time. New imaging technology can reduce or even eliminate surgical procedures. For example Yale University designed a brain scan that maps blood flow and the electrical activity, and biochemical activity in the brain at the same time. I will look at the three main types of brain scan in common use for investigative tests for Alzheimer's disease. They are;
The above links give information on each test, what they are used for and what to expect from the imaging scan.
Do Brain Scans Hurt?
Brain scans are not painful. The procedure however can be uncomfortable because you have to lie on a hard, cold table, for quite a long time. Pillows and a blanket can help reduce discomfort. Where a dye is injected into a vein, such as in CTA and MRA scans, the dye can sting a bit, but that does not last.