It is important that diagnostic procedures be done as soon as possible so treatment can begin quickly. There are various procedures that can be utilized by your physician. These are used to help choose the types of treatments that should be done in a particular case. The doctor may need to perform more than one of these to learn as much as he can about the injury. Testing typically measures either function or activity. Tests are repeated in some cases to evaluate the child’s change over time.
There are several types of medical imaging tests that may be done to review a child’s brain structure. These include:
- MRI – Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detects damage using magnetic fields. It is one of the most sensitive of these tests and can locate even asymptomatic injuries. It can detect damage as small as 1-2mm.
- Ultrasound – Head-scanning ultrasound is a method of testing used to diagnose brain hemorrhages.
- CAT Scan – Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan uses x-rays to review slices of the brain to detect damage. The test is often used in the first stages of a brain injury and may repeatedly be done to see whether there are changes.
Medical imaging tests are non-invasive and therefore are easy to administer. They provide useful information to doctors when treating suspected injuries of infants and children.
The EEG test measures and records electrical activity in the brain. It uses electrodes that are attached to the head and a computer. The brain’s activity can be seen in real time on a screen, and brain waves are recorded on paper. The EEG is an important test of brain function and can also detect irregular activities such as seizures. It is used to review activity and is repeated for comparison to see if the patient’s condition has changed over time. It is also used to determine when a comatose person is brain dead.
Evoked Potential Studies
Evoked potential studies are used to measure the body’s sensory system including the vision, hearing, and touch. Tests utilize electrical signals that are detected using electrodes attached to the head. The signals measure function in various portions of the brain so that a more specific diagnosis can be made. Visual evoked recordings (VER) document the occipital lobes, somatosensory potentials (SSEP) document parietal lobes, and brainstem auditory evoked recordings (BAER) record temporal lobes. Together, these tests provide a detailed review of the patient’s brain function.
An electromyogram (EMG) takes measurements of electrical activity within the muscles both when they are at rest and when they are being used. The tests can measure how well the nerves are sending electrical signals. It detects areas of weakness, such as paralysis or muscle twitching which may be related to a particular area of the brain which controls those particular muscles.
Electrophysiological testing (EP) is a test that is performed to review heart function. The test uses catheters with wire electrodes that measure the electrical activity through blood vessels. It can detect abnormal heart activity such as arrhythmias. It is a minimally invasive procedure that will show the important functionality of the heart.
The neuropsychological evaluation can be performed by the doctor to determine a person’s ability to reason, concentrate, remember or solve problems. The test may be given to children who are old enough to speak and understand commands. There are a variety of tests that may be used to make an assessment. The studies are very useful in early detection of developmental delays. Ongoing testing can be done to see how well a specific treatment method is working.