Diagnostic Testing

Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Educational Resources > Traumatic Brain Injury Testing & Treatment > Diagnostic Testing

CT – Computerized Tomography

CT is used to initially evaluate potential damage to the skull and to the brain structures. It consists of multiple x-rays of the brain that can be taken in various orientations to highlight various areas of the brain. It is extremely useful in identifying areas of blood in the brain, and changes to the ventricles.

MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging

MRI is use to evaluate damage to the brain structures. The MRI consists of a reading of the magnetic impulses emitted from proteins in the brain and is very sensitive to the gray/white matter of the brain, and areas of chronic blood.


An angiogram is comprised of x-rays taken of the brain’s vascular structure. A dye is injected into the blood stream to help highlight the vascular structure of the brain.

EEG – Electroencephalogram

An EEG reveals the electrical impulses transmitted throughout the brain. Contact leads are attached to various spots on the skull to record the electrical impulses in each area of the brain. Brainwaves are detected as are epileptiform discharges and spikes. These can be tracked to a specific brain area and reflect the actual functioning of the brain.

QEEG – Qualitative Electroencephalogram

A QEEG is a more complex version of the traditional EEG. The QEEG is intended to be able to evaluate the brainwave patterns throughout the brain and compare them to samples of individuals with other neurologic issues.

PET Scan – Positron Emission Tomography

A PET scan uses a radionuclide tracer to produce positrons that emit two gamma rays that are detected. The tracer tends to be a glucose analog which allows the PET scan to detect the active uptake of glucose and image the actual function of the brain. This shows what areas of the brain remain active following an injury.

SPECT scan – Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography

The SPECT scan is similar to a PET scan with the exception that only one gamma ray is detected. It is a functional scan of the brain and will show areas of the brain that are actively using glucose demonstrating an increased level of activity.