Brain CT scan, or a computed tomography scan, is a unique method of imaging the brain and associated structures inside the head. It makes use of X-rays just like conventional X-ray imaging, but with the slight difference that a CT scan takes images at different angles to produce a final 3-dimensional image. These 3-D images are presented as ‘slices’ on a computer which show the cross sectional area of the brain. Thus, different cross sections can show the insides of a brain in a detailed fashion.
The images on a CT scan appear on the computer screen in the form of ‘hypodense’ (less bright or dark) or ‘hyperdense’ (very bright) areas. This difference in brightness of different parts in the brain can be used to separate the normal tissues from the abnormal ones.
CT scan can be done either with or without the use of a contrast medium. A contrast medium is a special liquid injected into the veins which travel to the desired area in the body and shows up as a bright path in the image. You may be asked by your doctor not to eat anything before a contrast C scan is to be done.
Unlike an MRI scan which evokes claustrophobia in many people, a CT scan is done in an open machine. After the general preparations are done, you will be asked to lie down on a flat mobile table. A big doughnut shaped structure is present at one end of the table through which the table will pass to and fro. Once the scan is complete, you are free to go.
It is a safe and non-invasive method of imaging, which gives clear and accurate results. A technology which comes handy even in ambulances to obtain rapid images after head trauma as well as a technique with which guides the surgeon during complicated brain surgeries.
Why Is CT Scan Of Brain Suggested?
A conventional X-ray, though a useful and easily available resource, has its own limitations, such as the inability to view deep seated lesions and soft tissues. A CT scan is very helpful in the following situations:
1. Brain Infarcts – An infarct is a region of dead tissue in any part of the body due to depletion of blood supply in the area. An infarct in the brain can be a result of atherosclerosis (fat deposition in the arterial walls) or a thrombus (clot) in a blood vessel. A brain infarct may or may not damage the functions determined by the affected part of the brain.
2. A Brain Aneurysm – An infamous silent killer, aneurysms are weak, dilated parts of the artery that supplies the brain. They mostly go unnoticed and can rupture without the slightest of warnings. Most brain aneurysms rupture and result in a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
3. Head Trauma – The extent of fractures and injury to soft tissues can be easily seen on a CT scan. Even tiny fracture lines which would otherwise be invisible on a routine X-ray can be visualized.
4. Tumors & Cysts – Hidden cysts and tumors cannot be seen in conventional radiography, but can elicit many symptoms which can be similar to other neurological problems. A CT scan is of great help here.
5. Calcifications – Calcium deposits can build up anywhere in the brain, be it the arteries or basal ganglia. Calcifications in the brain over time can manifest in form of symptoms such as dementia, or loss of function.
6. Brain hemorrhage – Also known as intracranial bleeding, brain hemorrhage is often a result of aneurysm rupture, trauma, brain tumors or weak blood vessels. It shows up as seizures, weakness, fever, altered level of consciousness and neck stiffness.
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