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Migraines and Other Headaches

Recognizing Migraine HeadachesOther Diagnostic Tools

CT Scan

CT (computed tomography) scans are also called CAT (computerized axial tomography) scans. These are fancy names for taking a picture of your brain. A neuro-imaging system allows doctors to map cross-sections of various parts of your body, including your brain. Scans are useful in detecting tumors, hemorrhages, and other serious causes of headaches.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) are both painless picture-taking procedures. The MRI uses powerful magnets to detect serious brain abnormalities, such as tumors and hemorrhages. The MRA (magnetic resonance angiography) is a similar procedure used to observe the large blood vessels of the head to see if there are abnormalities or obstructions.


Angiography is a more invasive procedure than MRI or MRA. A doctor inserts a small tube into a blood vessel. The tube is used to insert a dye into the blood vessel that shows if there has been a rupture. In many situations, MRIs and MRAs have replaced angiography.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An EEG is usually not a part of a doctor's study of headaches. It is a painless procedure in which electrodes, attached to a patient's scalp, show unusual brain wave patterns.

Lumbar Puncture (LP)

A lumbar puncture or spinal tap, as it is sometimes called, is not necessary in routine headache testing. Its major use is in diagnosing meningitis (infection of the linings of the brain) or encephalitis (infection of the brain itself).

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