CT scans are a type of X-ray that can help healthcare professionals identify brain changes that could be causing seizures. CT scans are generally safer and quicker than MRI scans for most people.

It is not always clear what causes a seizure. For example, they could occur due to a head injury, disease, or medication side effects.

Understanding the causes and triggers of seizures is an important part of managing them. Healthcare professionals use various tools to try to find what causes a seizure, and they may include medical imaging, neurological examinations, and electroencephalography.

A CT scan is a medical imaging tool that uses X-rays to take specialized pictures of the inside of the body. It can detect atypical tissues, scars, or other problems in the brain that could be causing seizures.

This article focuses on the use of CT scans for seizures.

A person laying on a bed while undergoing a CT scan. CT scans are sometimes used to diagnose seizures.Share on Pinterest
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CT scans involve circulating X-ray beams around the body to take detailed pictures of organs and tissues. They provide less detail than MRI scans but are quicker and cheaper, making them a useful tool in diagnosing and understanding conditions affecting organs or tissues.

CT scans help diagnose why a seizure might occur. There are many potential reasons for seizures, and identifying their cause is essential to determine how best to treat the condition. Healthcare professionals need to use a combination of assessments to identify the causes of a seizure.

CT scans are one of the most common brain scans for diagnosing seizures. For example, they might show whether someone has an atypical blood vessel or tissue growth in their brain that is causing them.

Healthcare professionals will use these results in combination with other information, such as a person’s medical history, to make a diagnosis.

CT scans typically occur in the hospital or clinic with trained doctors and nurses. The exact procedure will vary depending on the practice.

Healthcare professionals will usually perform a CT scan of a person’s head when investigating the cause of seizures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the procedure generally involves the following steps:

  1. A radiologist will explain the procedure and ask if the person has any questions.
  2. Some CT scans use a contrast dye that highlights specific body areas, which results in clearer images. A person may need to drink a contrast dye or receive it via an intravenous (IV) line in their arm or hand.
  3. A person will then remove any clothing or jewelry that could interfere with the procedure.
  4. Healthcare professionals will ask the individual to lie still on a table that slides into the CT machine, a large donut-shaped device.
  5. The table will move slowly through the CT machine, which will take images of the brain.
  6. The computer organizes the images to show the internal structures of the brain in detail.
  7. A CT scan of the head usually lasts around 10 minutes.

Learn more about CT head scans.

Healthcare professionals will be in touch with someone before a CT scan to explain the procedure and any necessary steps to prepare. This is the time to discuss any concerns or questions about the procedure.

It is important for people to notify them if they are pregnant or have any metal in their bodies, such as piercings or metal plates.

Doctors will ask people to avoid eating for 2.5 hours and drinking for 2 hours before the CT scan. They will also require that the person avoid wearing jewelry or objects that could interfere with the scan, such as dentures or hairpins.

There are additional steps for people undergoing a CT scan using a contrast. For example, healthcare professionals may ask if people are allergic to contrast dyes or iodine.

Some individuals may need a creatinine blood test within a month of the scan if they receive a contrast dye. This is necessary for people who are 70 years of age or older, have diabetes, or have a history of kidney problems.

People can usually resume their daily activities immediately after a scan.

Anyone undergoing a CT scan involving contrast dyes may experience pain, swelling, redness, or skin color changes at the injection site. Those who have an oral dye may experience different side effects, such as diarrhea.

Healthcare professionals may monitor the person for side effects, such as swelling and itching.

A radiologist will examine the CT scans and report their findings to the healthcare professional who ordered the exam.

The radiologist will highlight any abnormalities, and the healthcare professional will interpret the findings to decide whether further action is necessary or a diagnosis is possible.

In some cases, healthcare professionals may order a follow-up CT scan to evaluate potential issues.

Learn more about the differences between CT scans vs. MRI scans.

While CT scans are safe procedures for most people, they involve a small amount of radiation. However, people who have concerns can discuss them with a doctor.

There can be a slightly increased likelihood of cancer with excessive exposure to radiation, but the benefits of receiving an accurate diagnosis outweigh the risk.

Additionally, people who are pregnant should notify their doctor as radiation exposure can affect the pregnancy.

Anyone with a history of kidney problems should also notify their doctor if they receive a CT scan with a contrast dye. The dye can cause further kidney problems.

CT scans are a useful tool for diagnosing people who experience seizures. Healthcare professionals may use them in combination with other tests to determine the cause of a seizure.

CT scans are generally safe procedures for most individuals. They involve using X-rays to take specialized pictures of the inside of the body. A CT scan to test for a seizure would look at a person’s brain.

People may need to follow some preparation steps before the procedure, but they can usually return to their daily activities immediately afterward.