Neuroimaging provides images, or pictures, of the brain. The neuroimaging tests most commonly used in patients include:

What is Neuroimaging?

Like a photograph that shows the surface features of the face, CT or MRI of the head shows the anatomy of the skin, nose, mouth, skull, and brain. Doctors obtain a CT or MRI scan to determine whether seizures may be the result of an abnormality in the structure of the brain such as excess spinal fluid (hydrocephalus), scar tissue, or a tangle of blood vessels (vascular malformation). MRI is strongly preferred over CT because it provides more detailed information.

When is Neuroimaging Necessary?

In most cases, neuroimaging studies do not need to be done immediately at the time of diagnosis if the patient’s condition has returned back to normal. In general, a CT or MRI scan should be obtained when a child or adult has had one or more seizures for which the cause is unknown. The following are a few examples of when a CT or MRI scan is necessary:

  • If the cause of the seizures is known but has the potential to change (for example, a benign tumor or a vascular malformation).
  • If an underlying structural cause is known, and well controlled seizures suddenly become uncontrolled
  • If the cause of seizures is suspected but indefinite (for example, a mild head injury)
  • If a person has had epilepsy for more than a decade, has a normal neurological examination and hasn’t had a scan in that decade.