Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head is done to:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head is done to: Look for the cause of headaches. Help diagnose a stroke or blood vessel problems in the head. Problems with blood vessels may include an aneurysm or abnormal twisted blood vessels that... More
- Look for the cause of headaches.
- Help diagnose a stroke or blood vessel problems in the head. Problems with blood vessels may include an aneurysm or abnormal twisted blood vessels that are present at birth (this is called an arteriovenous [AV] malformation).
- Check blood flow or blood clots to the brain. MRI can show bleeding in or around the brain.
- Check symptoms of a known or suspected head injury.
- Check symptoms such as change in consciousness, confusion or abnormal movements. These symptoms may be caused by brain diseases, such as Huntington's disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, or Alzheimer's disease. See an MRI showing MS in the brain.
- Check for "water on the brain" ( hydrocephaly ).
- Look for tumors, infections, an abscess, or conditions of the brain or brain stem, such as encephalitis or meningitis.
- Check the eyes, the nerves from the eyes to the brain ( optic nerves ), the ears and the nerves from the ears to the brain ( auditory nerves ).
- Look for problems of the pituitary gland.
- Investigate or follow a finding seen on another test.
Most patients who suffer from headaches do not need an MRI. For example, if a young patient presents with features that are very typical for migraine, and has a family history of migraine, often further work up, including an MRI, is not needed.
Generally, physicians will order a brain MRI when there is something atypical about the presentation, or the patient reports a "red flag." Red flags are pieces of information gained from the history or physical exam that are unusual for primary headache syndromes (such as migraine and tension type headaches). Examples include fever, neurologic deficits such as numbness or weakness, sudden onset severe headache with no prior history, weight loss, change in vision, or a pronounced positional component to the headache. Additionally, if a person over fifty is presenting with new onset headaches, an image is often done as it is rare for an older person to be presenting for the first time with a primary headache syndrome.
Finally, if a patient has a known diagnosis of a primary headache disorder, such as migraine, but there is a sudden change in the pattern of the headache, for example the frequency increases dramatically or the headaches become much more severe, then their neurologist may consider ordering an MRI. Having a diagnosis of a primary headache disorder does not preclude you from having a secondary headache. If your headaches change in characteristic, or stop responding to the usual medication, you should bring that to your physician's attention.Most patients who suffer from headaches do not need an MRI. For example, if a young patient presents with features that are very typical for migraine, and has a family history of migraine, often further work up, including an MRI, is not... More