People who experience sudden symptoms of a severe headache, double vision, and numbness should be rushed to the emergency room. Each patient’s situation dictates which advanced imaging test is used for brain aneurysm diagnosis. Commonly used tests are described below. They include:
Computed Tomographic Imaging (CT) and Angiography (CTA)
A CT scan is a special type of test that uses X-rays. A CTA is a CT test that includes the use of a special dye. The dye is injected through an IV in your arm and helps physicians look at blood vessels. The test requires lying still on your back while being moved through a tube-like machine.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)
MRI and MRA tests are also used to examine the blood vessels of the brain. They too require a special dye that is injected through an IV in the arm. They also require lying face up and motionless in a tube-shaped machine. Unlike a CT that uses X-rays, these machines use magnetic fields.
A cerebral angiogram is the most sensitive imaging test for diagnosing and monitoring brain aneurysms. The patient is sedated and a small area of the body — typically the groin — is numbed. An interventional neuroradiologist inserts a small tube called a catheter into a blood vessel and threads it up the neck to the brain. A contrast dye is injected so that X-rays can reveal all arteries and any abnormalities. When the angiogram is over, the patient remains in the hospital, lying flat, for two to six hours. The length of time each patient remains lying down depends on details of the test and on the particular patient.
An accurate diagnosis of an aneurysm relies upon detailed visual information. The imaging and diagnostic team at the renowned Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology provides us with this information. The Institute is located at Barnes-Jewish Hospital with additional locations in west St. Louis County and St. Peters, Mo.