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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Cranial Ultrasound


Cranial ultrasound uses reflected sound waves to produce pictures of the brain and the inner fluid chambers (ventricles) through which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flows.

Cranial ultrasound


The size and shape of the brain appear normal.

The size of the brain's inner fluid chambers (ventricles) is normal.

Brain tissue appears normal. No bleeding, suspicious areas (lesions), abnormal growths, or evidence of infection are present.


Bleeding in the brain may be present, which may indicate intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). Repeated tests are often done to check the bleeding or to look for problems caused by the bleeding.

Suspicious areas or lesions around the brain's ventricles may be present. This may be a sign of periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), a condition in which the brain tissue around the ventricles is damaged.

The brain and ventricles may be enlarged from the buildup of excessive amounts of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This may point to hydrocephalus.

Abnormal growths may be present, which may point to a tumor or cyst.

Suspicious findings may be present, which may point to encephalitis or meningitis.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • The baby does not remain still during the test.
  • Having an open wound or recent surgical wound in the area being viewed.

What To Think About

  • Because ultrasound cannot penetrate bone, cranial ultrasound can be performed only on babies whose skull (cranial) bones have not yet grown together. But duplex Doppler ultrasound can be done to evaluate blood flow in the brain in children and adults. To learn more, see the topic Doppler Ultrasound.
  • Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is not usually detectable until several weeks after birth. For this reason, cranial ultrasound is generally done 4 to 8 weeks after delivery. Because cranial ultrasound may find suspicious areas in the brain that may or may not be PVL, ultrasound testing may be repeated over several weeks. Babies with PVL or intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) may develop normally or may have varying levels of disability, including cerebral palsy or an intellectual disability.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning may be done instead of cranial ultrasound to evaluate PVL or IVH in babies born prematurely. To learn more, see the topic Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Head.
  • Fetal ultrasound is used during pregnancy to view a developing baby (fetus) and the placenta. To learn more about ultrasound during pregnancy, see the topic Fetal Ultrasound.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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