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    Can a CT Scan Help Diagnose Migraines & Headaches?

    A CT scan uses X-rays and computers to make images of the body. It can help doctors diagnose headaches and their causes.

    You might need one if you have headaches daily or almost every day. Doctors can’t diagnose migraines with the test, though.

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    How Does a CT Scan Help?

    The test can help your doctor rule out other causes of your pain, such as:

    Is It Uncomfortable or Dangerous?

    The test is painless. To get the scan, you'll lie on a table. You may get a shot of "contrast material" into one of your veins, which will help doctors see parts of your brain more clearly on the image.

    Be sure to tell the doctor or nurse if you've had an allergic reaction to contrast material in the past. The dyes have iodine, which can cause a reaction in some people.

    The CT scanner uses X-rays, but the amount of radiation you get from them is kept to a minimum. But if you are or think you may be pregnant, let the doctor know -- X-rays can be harmful to a  growing baby. A child who needs to have a CT scan should get it at a facility that often works with children, so that the lowest possible dose of radiation can be used.

    How Should I Prepare?

    • Don’t eat anything 4 hours before your test.
    • Keep taking your medications as usual after you check with your doctor.
    • Plan for your test to take at least an hour. Most scans take from 15 to 60 minutes.
    • Ask your doctor any questions you have before the scan.

    What Happens Before the Test?

    • You may get a drug that will make you feel relaxed and drowsy.
    • You may need to change into a hospital gown, because snaps and zippers in street clothes can interfere with the scan. You also may need to take off your watch, rings, or jewelry. It's a good idea to leave your valuables, including jewelry, at home.

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