When the brain is healthy it functions quickly and automatically. But when problems occur, the results can be devastating. Some 50 million people in this country—one in five—suffer from damage to the nervous system. According to studies, African Americans have a greater risk of Alzheimer’s Disease than whites if another family member has suffered from it.
Some of the major types of disorders include: neurogenetic diseases (such as Huntington’s disease and muscular dystrophy), developmental disorders (such as cerebral palsy), degenerative diseases of adult life (such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease), metabolic diseases (such as Gaucher’s disease), cerebrovascular diseases (such as stroke and vascular dementia), trauma (such as spinal cord and head injury), convulsive disorders (such as epilepsy), infectious diseases (such as AIDS dementia), and brain tumors.
CT scanning of the head is typically used to detect:
• Bleeding, brain injury and skull fractures in patients with head injuries.
• Bleeding caused by a ruptured or leaking aneurysm in a patient with a sudden severe headache.
• A blood clot or bleeding within the brain shortly after a patient exhibits symptoms of a stroke.
• A stroke, especially with a new technique called Perfusion CT.
• Brain tumors.
• Diseases or malformations of the skull.
MRI is becoming the diagnostic method of choice for learning how a normal, diseased or injured brain is working, as well as for assessing the potential risks of surgery or other invasive treatments of the brain.
Physicians perform MRIs to:
• examine the anatomy of the brain.
• determine precisely which part of the brain is handling critical functions such as thought, speech, movement and sensation, which is called brain mapping.
• help assess the effects of stroke, trauma or degenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s) on brain function.
• monitor the growth and function of brain tumors. guide the planning of surgery, radiation therapy, or other surgical treatments for the brain.
MRI imaging of the head is performed to help diagnose:
• tumors of the brain.
• developmental anomalies of the brain.
• vascular anomalies of the head (aneurysm for example).
• disorders of the eyes and the inner ear.
• trauma patients (in selected patients).
• disease in the pituitary gland.
• certain chronic disorders of the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis.
• causes of headache.
Physicians also use the MRI examination to document brain abnormalities in patients with dementia.
Neurological Diagnostic Tests and Procedures include:
• Laboratory screening tests of blood, urine, or other substances are used to help diagnose disease, better understand the disease process, and monitor levels of therapeutic drugs.
• Genetic testing or counseling can help parents who have a family history of a neurological disease determine if they are carrying one of the known genes that cause the disorder or find out if their child is affected.
• A neurological examination assesses motor and sensory skills, the functioning of one or more cranial nerves, hearing and speech, vision, coordination and balance, mental status, and changes in mood or behavior, among other abilities.
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