There are several different types of brain imaging techniques, each with its own strengths and uses. Here are a few of the most common:
A CT scan uses X-rays to create detailed images of the brain. It can quickly provide images of the brain and is often used in emergency situations. The cost is lower, however there will be a dose of radiation that one will be exposed to during the scan.
An MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain. It’s especially good for visualizing soft tissues, including the brain and spinal cord. Unless a special injection dye is needed, it is generally safe without any radiation exposure, and can even be done for pregnant patients. The cost for an MRI however is higher and may require a longer duration to complete. As the scan involves going into a small, tight “tunnel”, patients who have claustrophobia may not tolerate the test well and sedation may be needed to complete the scan.
A PET scan uses a small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the body to highlight
areas of high chemical activity (like areas of the brain working hard). This can be particularly useful in
diagnosing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The right imaging technique will depend on the patient’s condition and which modality will be useful to provide extra information to the clinical doctor in diagnosing and treating the patients condition.