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Diagnostic Tests and Descriptions

Diagnostic Tests and Descriptions

"To me, information and knowledge of my child's medical condition is like taking a flashlight into a dark room. Staying informed is recharging the battery." -- Cheryl Wilson

Ultrasonography is a medical technique that huses high-frequency sound waves to outline structures withing the head. It takes little time to perform and is a simple, painless procedure. By passing the sound waves through the open fontanel of infants, good pictures (images) of the ventricles can be obtained to diagnose and follow the course of hydrocephalus. Because the skull blocks sound waves, ultrasonography cannot be used in an older child, once the fontanel is closed...unless there is a skull defect (a hole in the skull) through which the sound waves may pass.
Neurological CT scans focus on the head or spine.
CAT scans can help detect spinal stenosis (narrowing) or a herniated disc. They can assist in locating brain damage in patients with head injury, detect a blood clot or bleeding in patients with a stroke, detect certain brain tumors, illuminate enlarged brain ventricles (cavities) in patients with hydrocephalus, assist in planning radiation therapy for cancer of the brain, or detect bleeding in a patient with a ruptured or leaking aneurysm. CT can clearly show even the smallest bones of the body as well as surrounding muscle and blood vessels. This makes it invaluable in diagnosing and treating cranial and spinal problems.

CT scanning is fast, painless, and simple and involves little radiation exposure. If contrast material is injected, patients may experience a warm, flushed sensation or experience a metallic taste in their mouth for a few minutes. The CT scanner is a large, square machine with a donut-like hole in the center. The patient lies on a table that can move up or down and slides into and out of the center of the hold. The patient''s body may be supported by pillows to help hold it still and in the proper position during the scanning process. Inside the machine, an x-ray tube on a rotating gantry moves around the patient''s body to produce the images, making clicking and whirring sounds as the gantry moves. A CT scan usually takes from 15 minutes to 30 minutes; a CT exam of the head and brain can take between 10 and 45 minutes. -- On-Call

MRI like the CT scanner, MRI is a diagnostic technique that produces images of the brain, but unlike the CT scanning, MRI does not use x-rays. Instead MRI uses radio signals and a very powerful magnet to scan the patient's body, and the signals are then formed into pictures by a computer. MRI is a painless procedure and has no known side effects. As with CT scanning, small children are given a sedative before MRI to minimize movement that would cause blurring of the images.

CT and MRI scans only illustrate anatomy and cannot prove a patient's source of pain. In some cases, discs may appear abnormal on MRI or CT scans but not be the source of pain. A discogram can help identify discs that cause pain and help the neurosurgeon plan the correct surgery. A negative discogram can help avoid surgery that may not be beneficial. Because of the nature of the test, discography is usually done only if the patient's pain is significant enough to consider surgery.-- On-Call

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