5 Major Types of Brain Scans and Their Importance

Are you or a loved one experiencing unexplained symptoms or changes in behaviors that have made you wonder about overall brain health? Or, is your doctor requesting a brain scan to diagnose or rule out certain conditions? A brain scan test may be just the right diagnostic tool that you need.

brain scans, also known as neuroimaging tests, create pictures of your brain structure or functionality using radioactive substances, magnetic fields, or soundwaves. They provide insights into the physiological structure and to assess brain functionality to aid in diagnosing various medical disorders.

If you’re feeling apprehensive about getting a brain scan, don’t worry – this post will cover everything you need to know about these scans, including what they are, what conditions they can reveal, how much they cost, and much more. So, let’s dive in.

What are the 5 types of brain scans?

Here are the five types of brain scans:

1. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, uses radio waves, magnets, and computer technology, and does not emit harmful radiation like CT (Computed Tomography) or PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans. It creates precise cross-sectional images of the brain, and doctors can use it for identifying many different brain disorders.

MRI scans are used for a wide variety of medical applications to diagnose and manage conditions like stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, or any abnormalities in the brain caused by injury, infections, or fluid build-up.

2. Computed Tomography (CT)

A CT scan, on the other hand, is an X-ray machine that uses radiation to produce a series of pictures of the brain. CT scans provide detailed images of blood vessels, bone, and brain tissue, allowing for a precise diagnosis of numerous health problems.

Common conditions that CT scans are used to diagnose include head injuries, blood clots, brain tumors, and aneurysms.

3. Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Positron Emission Tomography imaging or PET imaging, traces radioactive tracers that are injected into the patient to assess brain function.

During a PET scan, a small amount of radioactive glucose is injected into the patient’s bloodstream to check how glucose absorption and specific cells’ metabolism. Thus, PET scans can reveal brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s.

4. Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)

SPECT scans use gamma rays and a special camera to produce images that show blood flow in the brain. SPECT imaging uses radio-tracers to highlight the flow of blood and metabolic activity in the brain, revealing areas of decreased flow indicating areas of potential brain damage.

SPECT scans can help identify different types of brain disorders, including depression, anxiety disorder, and addiction.

5. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) uses MRI and measures changes in blood flow in the brain. It shows areas of the brain that are active when you perform different tasks or receive stimuli. It has become one of the essential diagnostic tools for neuroscientists, especially for studying the functional relationship between brain regions.

fMRI generally reveals brain tumors, vascular disease, and other conditions associated with blood flow changes. It’s mostly used to study the brain’s cognitive functions and how the brain functions in response to different stimuli.

What disorders can a brain scan show?

Brain scans can diagnose a vast range of brain disorders, including:

  • Abnormal brain structure
  • Disruptive sleep patterns
  • Any signs of inflammation in the brain
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Aneurysms
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Dementia
  • Any unusual growth or infections
  • Head injury or trauma
  • Brain tumors
  • Any abnormalities in the blood flow in the brain

What symptoms require a brain scan?

Not all symptoms require a brain scan. Your doctor will determine based on the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and risk factors if a brain scan is necessary.

Here are some symptoms that require a brain scan:

  • Severe or recurring headaches or migraines
  • Seizures
  • Memory problems
  • A sudden change in behavior, such as confusion or agitation.
  • Vision changes or blurred vision
  • Weakness or numbness in the limbs
  • Dizziness, vertigo, and lightheadedness
  • Loss of consciousness

Which is better MRI or CT scan for the brain?

Doctors use both CT and MRI scans for different patients and conditions. Here are some key differences between the two:

  • CT scans are faster to scan and are generally less expensive than MRI.
  • MRI scans do not emit harmful ionizing radiation, as CT scans do.
  • MRI images are more detailed than CT scans, providing a more in-depth look at body tissues and organs.
  • CT scans are better at identifying bloody and bony structures, while MRIs are best suited for detecting damage in soft tissues like mussels, tendons, and ligaments.

Your doctor will decide which type of test would provide the most beneficial information for your specific condition.

How much does a brain scan cost?

The cost of a brain scan can vary widely depending on a few factors, including the type of scan, their testing facility’s location, and the cost of the diagnostic equipment.

Here are the estimated costs for the five types of brain scans discussed in this post:

  • MRI: $400-$3500
  • CT Scan: $500 – $1500
  • PET Scan: $4000-$6000
  • SPECT Scan: $2800-$5000
  • fMRI: $700-$2500

Insurance programs, like Medicaid or Medicare, cover some of the scans’ costs, while private insurers may exclude some diagnostic tests. Check with your insurance provider before getting the tests done.

How to get a brain scan?

To have a brain scan, talk to your doctor first. The doctor will recommend the right type of brain scan for you based on your symptoms and medical history. The doctor can provide a referral to a medical imaging facility, and their staff can schedule your appointment for your brain scan.

Can you get a brain scan just for fun?

It’s not recommended to get a brain scan for fun or curiosity, as it can expose the patients to unnecessary radiation or tracers. Brain scans involve radioactivity or MRI systems that are not without some risks. These diagnostic tests should only be used when medically necessary.

Brain scan test near me

Brain scans are offered in a variety of healthcare facilities like hospitals, stand-alone medical imaging centers, and clinics. You may be able to find one within your location by performing an online search.

In Conclusion:

Brain scan tests are an essential tool that doctors use to diagnose and treat various brain disorders. While each test has its capabilities and limitations, your doctor will recommend the right one for your symptoms and health circumstances. Still, it’s important to stay calm and ask your doctor any questions or concerns you have about brain scans before proceeding.

We hope that this post has provided useful information to you. Do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor for a more accurate diagnosis or to get more details on brain scans.