A head CT scan uses X-rays to take detailed axial images of structures inside your head. These images are often referred to as “slices” and are reconstructed in multiple planes by computer processing to create 3-D representations. The resulting images provide our radiologists with information about the brain, eyes, facial bones, skull, nasal passages, sinuses, inner ears, vascular structures, and more.
Reasons for a Head CT Scan
Your doctor may recommend a head CT scan to examine symptoms that suggest brain injury, bleeding, or damage from a stroke, or to investigate treatment options. Common symptoms include fainting, dizziness, hearing loss, change in mental status or behaviour, and others. Head CT scans can also be used to evaluate:
- Congenital disorders or defects
- Fluid build-up
- Persistent and severe headaches
Scanning for Headaches and Migraines
Head CT scans can also be ordered to investigate lingering headaches or migraines that are difficult to diagnose with traditional neurological exams and patient history.
Your doctor may recommend a head CT if you:
- Experience severe headaches with tremendous pressure – it feels like something is bursting inside your head.
- Are 50 years of age or older, and your headaches feel different from those in the past.
- Get headaches during or after physical activity.
- Experience headaches with other behavioural symptoms, such as a change in speech, alertness, control, or seizures.
- Develop severe headaches after head trauma.
Head CT Scan with Contrast
This procedure can be non-invasive unless the radiologist determines that a contrast agent is needed for greater detail. In this event, an IV line will be inserted into a vein in your arm to allow the contrast agent to enter your body. Intravenous insertion is minimally invasive, and contrast merely assists in providing our radiologist and your doctor with more detailed images.
During a head CT, you will be moved into the scanner head-first, on your back.
A head CT scan lasts less than 30 minutes.
Being prepared for your head CT scan helps us take the best possible images for diagnosis. Please visit our exam prep page for more instructions specific to head ct preparation.