What Type of Scan Is Used for the Brain? 

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What Type of Scan Is Used for the Brain? 

What Type of Scan Is Used for the Brain?

Do you want to know what type of scan is used for the brain? No doubt, you have landed on the right page. This article shall shed light on all the available scanning modalities today for diagnosing your brain and thereby detecting disorders and diseases.


If you or your close one is experiencing –

  • Tremors,
  • Movement Problems,
  • Seizures,
  • Extreme Physical and Mental Fatigue,
  • Sharp & Persistent Headache,
  • Nausea, Vomiting, and
  • Body Numbness,

You must see a doctor! Then the doctor shall examine you and recommend a brain scan to you. It may be a Brain CT, Brain MRI, PET scan, or the latest EEG  Scan. Or maybe, two of them, depending on what the first scan report reveals!

These symptoms are typically led by –

  • Brain Tumors (Benign or Malignant),
  • Brain Injury,
  • Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s,
  • Epilepsy and other Auto-Immune Brain Diseases,
  • Cerebrovascular diseases like Stroke and more!

While a Brain MRI is most efficient in diagnosing brain tumors, a Dopamine Transporter Scan, a type of Computed Tomography (CT), serves better in the case of Parkinson’s. An MRI is more sensitive for detecting neurological damage, especially traumatic injuries.

On the other note, a Position Emission Tomography (PET) scan is more significant in detecting Alzheimer’s! An Electroencephalogram (EEG) is a newly proven efficient test for epilepsy. However, only your doctor can say which scan would serve you right!

  • An MRI can lead to injuries to patients if pursued with metallic implants like a pacemaker or metallic joint plates.
  • A CT scan lay harmful to the fetus if you are pregnant; the same for a PET scan as well! It is because of radiation exposure.
  • A Brain PET may provide unclear images for patients above 75 years.
  • If you do have epilepsy, there are chances that deep breathing alongside the flashing lights from the scanner can bring your seizure during an EEG scan.

Only your doctors can understand what type of scan is used for the brain that can help them plan and decide the best treatment for you.

Brain MRI

It is most plausible for your doctor to pick Brain MRI, as it is safe,  non-invasive, and simultaneously offers accurate cross-sectional images of your brain. The MRI process involves a doughnut-shaped machine and a computer console, combining magnetic resonance and radio waves to generate the pictures.

According to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), an MRI holds an 87% accuracy in diagnosing intra-axial gliomas, a group of brain tumors originating from glial cells; the one that supports the neurons’ functioning! As per the Journal of Clinical Oncology, an MRI reserves a 66% accuracy rate in identifying cancerous or malignant tumors.

An MRI is also sensitive and specific in assessing brain conditions like Infections, Inflammation, Cysts, Stroke, Aneurysms, Hemorrhage, Alzheimer’s, and more! It is the gold-standard scan for your brain indeed, say medical experts!

Brain CT or CAT

When it comes to what type of scan is used for the brain, another common answer is a CT scan, also called a CAT scan, sometimes! Your doctor may recommend this scan for examining brain injury, blood clots, torn ligaments, intracranial bleeding, abnormal skull due to birth conditions, and so forth!

National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that a contrast-enhanced Brain CT looking into your venous system is about 95% sensitive and 91% specific in diagnosing blood clots. Being the fastest scan, it is a major help during emergency conditions like brain injuries. It reserves 89% sensitivity and 98% specificity in detecting torn ligaments, says NCBI.

Advanced CT technologies, like low-dose and ultra-low-dose CT, tends to help medical professionals to establish accurate diagnosis alongside reduced radiation exposure, thereby decreasing the risk of further complications.

PET Scan for Brain

While Brain CT and Brain MRI look for structural anomalies, a PET scan is the one to look for the metabolic changes in the brain cells. In short, a PET Scan is a functional test, non-invasive, but involves a radioactive tracer for accurate image extraction. A Brain PET can detect neurological conditions in your brain, such the Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, etc.

Studies state that PET scan for the brain has nearly 81% specificity and 78% sensitivity in diagnosing dementia. It is also quite specific and sensitive to Alzheimer’s, precisely around 80% and 85%, respectively. A PET scan can trace any altered blood flow in the brain and therefore lay efficient in identifying traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

NCBI research says that a PET scan holds the possibility of facilitating the diagnosis of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders. However, the practice is yet not prevalent! A Brain PET can also help doctors plan a treatment course for TBI patients.

EEG Scan 

In 2023, medical experts also quote EEG while talking about what type of scan is used for the brain. It is a safe, non-invasive mechanism to record the electrical activities of your brain through electrodes, the ones which get affixed to the scalp! But, of course, no electricity gets passed through your body. It shows how your brain functions in real time.

Undoubtedly, an EEG imagining modality is here as a salient method to diagnose neuropsychiatric disorders these days. But, it has yet to have a transformation to bring forth more accuracy. According to Studies, an EEG Scan is only 25-56% sensitive to epilepsy. The chance of misdiagnosis makes doctors avoid this scan in the first place.

Studies show that an EEG Scan can become beneficial in diagnosing your sleep patterns, thereby identifying sleep disorders like non-rapid eye movement. The NCBI reveals that an EEG Scan holds 94% accuracy in predicting sleep stages.

Bottom Line: 

Concerning the question of what type of scan is used for the brain, the above-mentioned are not all!

  • An advanced PET/CT scan, Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography, may also be your doctor’s choice for diagnosing Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Your doctor may opt for Magnetoencephalography (MEG) scan over EEG for identifying epilepsy because it holds a higher temporal resolution in imaging.
  • If your doctor predicts a white matter disease from the above scans, they may ask for a second DTI scan, i.e., Diffusion Tensor Imaging Tractography, an advanced MRI technique.

So, your job is to consult medical professionals and follow what they say!

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Hi, I am Alka Tiwari, Founder & Patient Care Executive at MRIChandigarh.com. Helping you get the diagnostics scans services like MRI, CT Scan, UltraSound & PET Scan, etc at the best price. At MRIChandigarh's blog, I will be writing to create awareness and to educate you about how and where to get diagnostic scans done in Chandigarh at the best price with best-in-class services.
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