Today, various imaging techniques play a pivotal role in diagnosing a majority of conditions, including epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is one such diagnostic tool. This neuroimaging technique provides insight into the structure and function of the human brain. When it comes to diagnosing epilepsy, a neurological condition with susceptibility to seizures, MRI can be leveraged to provide more definitive information.
MRI scans the structure and function of the brain and helps detect any abnormalities. This is achieved with the help of strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of the organs, tissues, and other structures within the body. A scar or lesion on the brain, if present, will be displayed on the scan which can then be used for clinical decision-making.
This journey can feel daunting for the person living with epilepsy, as well as their loved ones. Here is all the information you need to know about MRI in parallel with seizures and epilepsy.
Why has MRI been suggested as a course of diagnosis?
Epileptic episodes can occur due to abnormal electrical brain activity or damage to the brain. Head injuries leading to brain damage, brain tumours, irregular blood flow to the brain, structural issues, and sclerosis are some of the key elements resulting in epilepsy. These injuries can be detected through an MRI scan. Healthcare providers can refer to the MRI images to better understand the underlying cause of having experienced an episode.
This method, if required, also provides insight into whether surgery is required to remove the part of the brain causing these seizures. The surgeon can refer to the scan and locate exactly which part and how much of the brain is needed to be removed. This area is referred to as the epileptogenic zone.
Types of MRI scans developed to map the brain and detect seizures
- Functional MRI Epilepsy Scans – A method used to observe the blood flow within the brain.
- Fiber Tracking Techniques – This approach essentially displays a detailed ‘wiring’ of the brain. It is a tractography technique where the MRI scanner accumulates the data and processes it through certain computer algorithms. This information is then used to pinpoint fiber tracts, each of which comprises millions of neuronal connections.
- FLAIR Method – Fluid Attenuated Inversion Recovery (FLAIR) is a technique designed and developed to detect any changes that have occurred along the edges of the brain.
What to Expect
Although undergoing an MRI scan is a painless, completely safe, procedure that lasts for an average of 30 minutes, lying inside a massive tube fitted with large magnets that make loud thumping sounds can be somewhat of a strange experience.
A few do’s and don’ts before your MRI scan
- Inform the doctor or technician of any metal implants you may have as this may affect the way the MRI works, ultimately compromising the results. This includes wearing jewellery, cochlear implants, etc.
- Eat, sleep, and consume water the night before like you normally would.
- Wear loose-fitting attire without metal fasteners or buttons during the scan.
- Before you commence the scan, take note of the emergency button. At any point should you feel uncomfortable, you can use the button to communicate with the technician.
Once the test is carried out successfully, the MRI findings are analyzed by your neurologist and radiographer. The information obtained is used to gain an understanding of the seizures and the probable causes for them. They can then decide the best course of treatment for you.
In essence, MRI is a diagnostic test that helps determine the source and impact of a complication within the individual’s application serving domain and how to possibly treat it.
Please note, for several individuals, there is no structural cause of their epilepsy and the neuroimaging scan may come back ‘normal’. Please consult your healthcare provider for the next step.
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