CT scan for headaches

Can a CT Scan Help Diagnose Migraines & Headaches

Many people complain of headaches on and off. If it happens one day suddenly and goes away after some time, it is ok. It might be due to stress or other factors. But if you have headaches daily or consistently on a regular basis, it is important to get it checked. Many patients also complained of onset of severe headache, which refused to go. Ignoring such symptoms might lead to problems later. Therefore, it is recommended to see a doctor and get necessary tests and investigations done to find if there are any problems.

CT Scans for Understanding the Cause of Headaches

The human head is probably the most complicated structure in the body, with various interrelated organs, blood vessels, nerves and other systems. The cause of headaches might be a general thing or some disorder, in part of the head. To understand the root cause of the problem, many doctors recommend doing a CT scan for headaches. CT (computed tomography) scansuse X-rays and powerful computers for creating cross-sectional images of different parts of the body. When compared to X-rays, CT scans provide more detailed images of the organs or body parts.

Reasons Contributing to Headaches, Which Can be Diagnosed by a CT Scan

Headaches can be caused due to many factors. And if the problem is a serious one, it will be evident in the CT scan report. Mentioned below find such conditions:

  • Brain infection called an abscess
  • Brain tumour
  • Sinus blockage
  • Head injury of any kind
  • A condition known as hydrocephalus, in which buildup of fluid takes up in the brain
  • Bleeding in the brain or aneurysm, which is inflamed weakest part of a brain artery

Is a CT Scan Painful or Uncomfortable?

Patients can relax knowing that the process of CT scan is painless. The patient just needs to lie on a table and imaging of the brain is done. In some patients, ‘contrast’ injection might be needed to be given into the veins. This is required in people where doctors need a clearer image of the brain to understand any kind of anomaly.

Many patients have allergic reactions to the contrast injection. It is important to inform the doctor regarding the same before the test. Not only this, before the CT scan is done, the patient’s kidney function test reports are checked. The contrast injection contains iodine and this can cause allergy in many people.

X-rays are used in the process of CT scan, but the amount of radiation should be kept to a minimum as it has many harmful side effects. If you are pregnant or expecting, inform the doctor regarding the same. In case a child needs a CT scan, special arrangements should be made so that least possible radiations are given for the scanning process.

Preparations Needed for a CT Scan

There are some preparations that need to be done before the CT scan test. They are as follows:

  • You should not eat anything 4 hours before the test
  • Do not skip any regular medications. Keep taking them in consultation with your doctor
  • Usually the CT scan takes 15-60 minutes, depending on the individual and the complexity of the problem. Be prepared likewise.
  • If you have any doubts or fears, ask your doctor in advance.

The Process of a CT Scan

Before the CT Scan

The doctor might give a medicine that makes the patient relaxed and sometimes drowsy. You will also need to change your dress and get into the hospital gown. Your dress might have zippers and buttons and they might interfere with the process of scanning. All kinds of metal accessories, like rings, watches, jewellery etc should be taken off from the body for the process. The best thing is to take off all valuables and keep at home.

During the CT Scan

The patient has to lie on the examining table in a correct position and the table automatically slides inside a tunnel where imaging takes place. Lying still is required for good quality images as movements will blur the images. There are times when the patient will be asked to hold his/her breath so that X ray images can be taken.

After the CT Scan

There are no restrictions after a CT scan examination. One can get back to regular activities and daily life after the test.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad