Imaging Techniques To Diagnose Headaches

Amongst the other techniques used to diagnose headaches, imaging techniques are also widely used. There are three types of imaging techniques used for this purpose. These include Computed Tomography Scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Positron Emission Tomography Scan.

Computed Tomography Scan (CT scan)
CT scan stands for Computed Tomography Scan. Originally it was called CAT scan, which stood for Computed Axial Tomography Scan. A CT scan or a CAT scan machine is basically like an x-ray machine connected to the computer giving a series of detailed pictures of the head. These series of images are combined by the computer into a single 2D image. This 2-D image of the brain is then studied on a television-like monitor.

A CT scan provides a more precise visualization and is also less expensive than a MRI. But the disadvantage of a CT scan is that it exposes the patient to the harmful effects of ionizing radiations.

The CT scan may be performed with or without a dye. A dye may be injected in the brain so that the brain shows up clearly in the scan. This dye is iodine-based. Therefore, patients, who are allergic to iodine, need to be careful.

It may be used to detect tumors in the brain and to rule out organic diseases as the cause of the headache. It can also help in detecting acute bleeding in the brain and sinusitis.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This test does not use radiation or any other invasive technique. It produces fine quality images and is a very versatile technique, making use of high-frequency radio waves.

In this case, a powerful magnet linked to the computer takes images of the areas inside the body and these images can actually be printed. A dye may or may not be injected.

The procedure is mostly costlier than a CT scan but not necessarily superior to it, except in some cases. However, it is extremely sensitive.

The MRI machine is quite noisy although the procedure itself is painless. It is absolutely necessary that all metal belongings on one's person should be removed because a very strong magnetic field is created inside the machine, which could pull those metal belongings towards itself. Hence, it is also not advisable for people who may be having pacemakers, surgical clips or bone pins implanted inside their bodies.

Positron Emission Tomography Scan (PET scan)

A PET scan stands for Positron Emission Tomography Scan. It has been found to be useful because it displays a 3D image of the brain and is used to measure brain function.

Here the doctor can see the effects that certain drugs have on the brain. A fluorine-based radio isotope is used during a PET scan. A PET scan is a relatively new technique and studies are still underway to find out its efficacy in diagnosing the cause of headaches.