Migraine Term of the Day - Computerized Axial Tomographic Scan

  • Although there are no diagnostic tests to confirm a diagnosis of Migraine, there are tests that doctors sometimes order to rule out other causes for our symptoms. One of these tests is the CT or CAT scan.


    When we're looking at Migraine and headache information, whether it's from our doctor, a book, or an online article, we sometimes come across medical terms that can be confusing.


    Sometimes, it's easy enough to substitute another word or a short phrase for the medical term. At other times, substituting just doesn't convey quite the same meaning or takes more than a few words.


    Understanding medical terminology helps us be better prepared to work with our doctors as true treatment partners so the can made decisions with us rather than for us.

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    Today's term: Computerized Axial Tomographic Scan (CT or CAT) Scan.


    A CT scan type of X-ray scan utilized for diagnostic purposes that can be useful in identifying organic causes of headache, especially after a trauma. 


    It should be noted that the American Headache Society recently listed CT scans as tests that are commonly performed by not always necessary in the treatment of Migraine and headache. Specifically, they said:

    Don’t perform computed tomography (CT) imaging for headache when magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is available, except in emergency settings.

    When neuroimaging for headache is indicated, MRI is preferred over CT, except in emergency settings when hemorrhage, acute stroke or head trauma are suspected. MRI is more sensitive than CT for the detection of neoplasm, vascular disease, posterior fossa and cervicomedullary lesions and high and low intracranial pressure disorders. CT of the head is associated with substantial radiation exposure which may elevate the risk of later cancers, while there are no known biologic risks from MRI.

    Some examples:

    • When he went to the ER after the car accident, the doctor ordered a CT scan.
    • The CT scan revealed a skull fracture.

    Related content:

    5 Things Migraine and Headache Patients and Doctors Should Question

    Are there medical terms you'd us to feature and explain? If so, please leave a comment below, and tell us what they are.


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    © Ellen Schnakenberg, 2014.
    Last updated January 31, 2014.

Published On: January 31, 2014