Skip to Main Content

Why You May Need a Brain Scan in Central California

If you have signs of a neurological disorder, your Dignity Health Central California neurologist may order a brain scan to help diagnose the condition. “Brain scan” is an umbrella term representing several types of tests targeting the brain. 

An imaging test, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or computed tomography (CT) scan, can help your doctor analyze structures within your brain. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan can provide additional information, such as how well your brain is working. 

Brain scans can help to diagnose or monitor many neurological conditions, including:

If you are concerned about symptoms related to a neurological condition, Find a Doctor at Dignity Health who can order and interpret a brain scan in Central California.


Types of Brain Scans at Dignity Health Central California

Brain scans fall into three main categories: CT, MRI, and PET. Within these categories there are several subcategories of scans that can measure very specific brain functions. 

  • CT scan: This test uses ionizing radiation (X-rays) and can be performed with or without contrast dye. If your CT scan requires it, contrast dye will be injected through an intravenous line (IV). To start the procedure, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown and lie down on a table that will then move you through the opening of the imaging machine.
  • MRI brain scan: As with a CT scan, you will need to wear a hospital gown and be placed inside the MRI machine on a retractable table. If contrast dye is needed, you will also have an IV line inserted. Unlike the CT scan’s use of ionizing radiation, an MRI scan uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce images. You will need to remove all magnetic metals from your body.
  • PET scan: This test shows actual brain functions. Before the scan, you will have a radioactive tracer injected through an IV line. After one hour — the time it takes for the tracer to circulate through your body — you will enter the scanning machine on a sliding table. 

If you are uncomfortable in confined spaces, or have difficulty lying still for periods of time, talk to your doctor about your concerns and available measures that can put you more at ease.   


Recovering After Your Brain Scan

In most cases, you are free to return to your normal activities after your scan. If you take a sedative before your exam, you will need to spend a few minutes in the recovery area. Always avoid driving after taking a sedative. 

Our neurologists work together to provide the highest level of care. Learn more about our neurology services:

Dignity Health Central California offers advanced diagnostic options, including brain scans, in Bakersfield, Merced, San Andreas, and Stockton, CA.