The study of the brain has been revolutionized by radiology. Specifically, PET, CT and MRI allow doctors and researchers to noninvasively look at the brain – brain structure and brain function.
If this sounds like a big deal, it is. Radiologists who specialize in neuroradiology can focus not just on the brain, but on the whole central and peripheral nervous systems, including the neck, spine, and corresponding blood vessels. Here’s how they do it:
Computed tomography of the head involves x-ray equipment that assesses head injuries, severe headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms that may be aneurysm, bleeding, stroke or brain tumors. A CT scan also helps evaluate your sinuses, face, and skull, and can reveal internal injuries.
A positron emission tomography scan of the head shows the brain, its tissues and how they are working. First, a radioactive substance called a tracer that travels through your blood and to compounds – like glucose – in your organs and tissues. The PET detects signals and activity from the tracer and creates 3-D images that are used to detect abnormalities or injury.
Magnetic resonance imaging of the head uses a magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to create clear, detailed pictures of the brain, cranial structures and surrounding nerve tissues. An MRI can show tissue damage or disease, infection or inflammation, signs of stroke, seizure, or a tumor.
Neuro Imaging at Work: Stereotactic Surgery
Stereotaxy, or Stereotactic Surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure where a lesion, like a brain tumor, is removed with the assistance of images that are obtained through an MRI, PET, or CT scan. Like a map, these images guide a surgeon to the exact location of the lesion; they provide an accurate pathway through the brain to safe removal of abnormal tissue, with minimal disruption to healthy brain tissue.