A CT head scan takes detailed X-rays at different angles of the head and brain to identify conditions such as brain tumors, aneurysms, and others.
A computerized axial tomography (CAT) or computerized tomography (CT) scan uses a series of X-rays taken at different angles to produce a detailed image of the head and brain.
The process of taking a CT scan of the head begins by taking many different X-ray views at various angles. These views are then combined using computer processing to create cross-sectional images, including the tissues inside of a solid organ.
A CT scan is done to study the patient’s skull, brain, jaw, sinuses, and facial bones. A doctor may recommend a head CT scan if a patient has any of the following symptoms:
- Recurrent headaches
- Head injury or injury to the face or eyes
- Dizziness or problems with balance
- Behavior or personality change
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Swelling in the face, head, or neck
This scan can also help to rule out other causes of headache that present symptoms like a migraine.
CT head scans are used for
- Investigating certain cancers or tumors of the skull, brain, and coverings over the brain.
- Identifying the location of tumors, stage of cancer, and site to perform a biopsy.
- Identifying congenital defects of the skull.
- Identifying hydrocephalus or bulging of the skull because of high pressure.
- Guiding doctors or surgeons during a procedure, such as a biopsy.
- Helping plan for certain types of therapy and surgery, as well as determining whether your body is responding to treatment.
- Detecting cysts or infections in the brain and identifying the bone structures within the skull.
- Quickly inspecting a patient after an accident to identify traumatic head injuries or any other internal injuries.
- Checking if the patient is displaying symptoms, such as
- hearing or vision loss,
- muscle weakness, or
- difficulty swallowing or speaking.
- Diagnosing conditions such as
- abnormal blood vessels,
- bone infection,
- brain damage,
- brain swelling,
- brain tumors, or
Special CT scans:
- They are done to study the paranasal sinuses. These are useful if sinusitis is suspected.
- A typical series of CT scans for the sinuses use less X-ray radiation than a standard complete set of X-rays. However, a CT scan of the sinuses does not show any brain tissues. Most CT scans of the head do not include all the sinuses.
- A CT scan with contrast may be ordered for people with strokes, hydrocephalus, or certain growths. These structures are better differentiated in a contrast CT scan.
CT scan side effects:
- CT scans use low levels of ionizing radiation. The risk of exposure to ionizing radiation, although small, is present. Any radiation is theoretically dangerous for body cells.
- On rare occasions, the contrast medium used for CT scans may cause an allergic reaction. The reaction may be severe enough in some people to cause kidney damage or even death.
Medically Reviewed on 1/29/2021
WebMD. CT Scans for Headache and Migraine Diagnosis. https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/making-diagnosis-ct-scan