Computed tomography (
CT scan): A scanner takes multiple X-rays, which a computer converts into
detailed images of the brain and skull.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI
scan): Using radio waves in a magnetic field, an MRI scanner creates highly
detailed images of the brain and other parts of the head.
(brain angiogram): A special substance doctors call "a contrast agent" is
injected into the veins, and travels into the brain. X-ray videos of the brain
are taken, which can show problems in the brain's arteries.
Lumbar puncture (spinal tap): A needle is inserted into the space around
the spinal nerves, and fluid is removed for analysis. Lumbar puncture is often
done if meningitis is suspected.
(EEG): Brain activity is monitored through electrodes placed on the skin on the
head. EEG can help diagnose seizures, or other brain problems.
Neurocognitive testing: Tests of problem-solving ability, short-term
memory, and other complex brain functions. Usually, neurocognitive testing is
done through questionnaires.
Brain biopsy: In rare
situations, a very small piece of the brain is needed to make the diagnosis of
a brain condition. Brain biopsies are generally done only when the information
is needed to provide proper treatment.
Thrombolytics: Clot-busting medicines injected into the veins can improve
or cure some strokes if given within a few hours after symptoms start.
Antiplatelet agents: Medicines like aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix) help
prevent blood clots. This can reduce the chance of a stroke.
Cholinesterase inhibitors: These medicines can improve brain function
slightly in mild or moderate Alzheimer’s disease. They do not slow or prevent
Antibiotics: When a brain infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics can
kill the organisms and make a cure more likely.
Levodopa: A medicine that increases brain levels of dopamine, which is
helpful in controlling symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Brain surgery: An operation on the brain can cure some brain tumors. Brain
surgery may be performed any time increased pressure in the brain threatens
Ventriculostomy: A drain is placed into the natural spaces inside the brain
(ventricles). Ventriculostomy is usually performed to relieve high brain
Craniotomy: A surgeon drills a hole into the side of the skull to relieve
Lumbar drain: A drain is placed into the fluid around the spinal cord. This
can relieve pressure on the brain and spinal cord.
Radiation therapy: If cancer affects the brain, radiation can reduce
symptoms and slow the cancer's growth.