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How Does an EEG Differ From Other Diagnostic Tests?

Published 1/22/2024

Neurotech MRI CT and EEG Differences

Depending on a patient's condition, many diagnostic tools may be available, including some of the most widely used tests: EEG, MRI, and CT scans. While each type of test offers its own scope of use case scenarios, capabilities, and limitations, all can be extremely beneficial in the evaluation and diagnosis of many medical conditions.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Commonly used as a diagnostic tool, MRI looks at specific areas of the body as a means of evaluation. Issues with joints, blood vessels, the heart, and the brain are often diagnosed via MRI.

An MRI uses a magnetic field and radio pulses to provide images for doctors to view. The MRI machine generates a constant magnetic field, and the intermittent radio pulses are used to construct the scan images. Sometimes a dye, referred to as a contrast agent, must be injected to provide a better view of a particular area.

MRI can be used for epilepsy evaluation, as this test can determine which parts of a patient's brain are affected by seizure activity. The machine measures minor changes in blood flow to detect the locations of brain activity.

Computer axial tomography (CT Scan)

A CT scan can be used to scan the entire body. CT scans are often used to diagnose bone fractures, tumors, different cancers, heart disease, and a variety of other issues, including many traumatic injuries.

Unlike an MRI, a CT scan uses X-rays to scan the body. Typically, scans are captured while the patient lies flat in the CT machine, and a computer receives the images for evaluation. The fact that the patient will be exposed to small amounts of radiation during a CT scan should be taken into consideration when using this diagnostic tool.

When evaluating seizures or diagnosing epilepsy, a CT scan can be useful in identifying overall brain abnormalities that may exist and contribute to seizure activity, including abnormalities such as scar tissue, atrophy, or abnormal blood vessels.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

EEG is most widely used to evaluate conditions such as epilepsy, but can also help provide diagnoses for many other medical conditions, including brain injury, behavioral disorders, and more.

A simple and painless test, EEG can provide a wealth of information by recording brain waves and all types of electrical activity in the brain. Evaluation and diagnosis of seizures and epilepsy has proven to be one of the most valuable uses for EEG scans. However, the limited time scope of typical EEGs in hospital or other medical facilities, as well as the fact that patients will not be engaged in their usual daily setting and activities, means that seizure activity may not be detected during a specific test.

These potential issues can be alleviated by the use of ambulatory EEG monitoring services. Ambulatory EEGs can be conducted in various settings over a longer period of time. Ambulatory EEG monitoring companies provide services to hospitals and medical facilities to facilitate remote and continuous EEG evaluation. These services can be ideal for diagnosis and observation of patients with certain conditions, and has been beneficial to both hospitals and patients.

How are these tools used for evaluating and diagnosing epilepsy?

While each tool offers a unique perspective of a patient's condition, they can often be used in conjunction to fully evaluate, diagnose, and treat a patient with epilepsy or other neurological conditions.

From a logistical standpoint, each test can be conducted simply, with minimal risks. MRIs and CT scans can be useful for evaluating the brain structure of a patient, and can be utilized to identify factors that may cause seizures, such as traumatic brain injuries or tumors. EEGs detect brain waves and can evaluate seizure activity as it occurs, and also identify abnormal signals that may indicate seizure activity.

While these three types of testing used in conjunction in a hospital environment can provide a good overview of a patient's condition, ambulatory EEG monitoring services can sometimes provide a fuller picture of the patient's health in a home or care facility setting, and may aid in understanding the extent of the patient's neurological issues.

Ambulatory EEG monitoring services are provided by EEG monitoring companies such as Neurotech and can be done anywhere, whether in a patient's home, a nursing home or assisted living facility, or hospital setting. Unlike traditional EEG, ambulatory EEGs can be performed over a longer period of time, often across multiple days, which can help identify triggers or activity based on a person's normal routine.

The evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of epilepsy is complex. The many diagnostic tools available each have their own role in the care process. If medical professionals can gain a complete picture of the factors involved in a patient's health, they can more readily provide efficient, comprehensive treatment.  Neurotech provides ambulatory EEG monitoring services nationwide. To learn more about our continuous EEG services, visit our website or contact us directly.