Patient undergoing a CT scan with medical assistance. Patient undergoing a CT scan with medical assistance.

What Happens When Brain Injuries are Missed on MRI and CT Scans?

There have been a lot of cases where patients have mild brain injuries that have gone undetected by CTs and MRIs, and for a better or more precise scan, the expense is way too much, and not everybody opts for it.

And, to be clear your skull will actually look the same if you do or do not have any minor brain injury so that analysis should clearly be canceled.

In a lot of cases, it has also been observed that patients had brain injuries but they were detected in the scans after a duration of 1-3 weeks, and in the meantime, the problems have kind of grown already.

1. The Working

However, if we see, scientifically available medical equipment that are present in the laboratories in the present day or even hospitals then MRI and CT scans are the best apparatus for scanning lesions.

However, they perform in the best capacity for macroscopic or large lesions, not for microscopic problems. Injuries in the neurons or neural connections are not easily located and unfortunately, these are associated with the brain.

1.1. Working on a CT Scan

A CT scan which is also known as computerised tomography works in a fashion that it takes multiple X-ray images of your body from different angles.

These images are first processed and then compiled by an external computer which then converts them into a big single picture.

Compared to a general X-ray, a CT scan provides way more detailed information about your bones, blood vessels, and even the soft tissues.

This is why when you undergo an injury or wreck in your body, a doctor would probably suggest you take a CT scan so that any internal trauma can be detected.

1.2. Working of an MRI

An MRI or magnetic resonance imaging is basically a machine that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of organs and tissues, with very detailed images; and the most surprising element of this technology is that their working process is non-invasive, and the details obtained are very clear compared to CT scans.

However, due to the presence of magnetic fields in the working, a person who has metal or shrapnel in the body or medical device can not undergo an MRI scan.

Even people who are scared of enclosed spaces can not undergo the same.

2. Can a Brain Bleed be Missed on a CT Scan?: Why are Brain Injuries Missed on Scans?

Something we need to understand about traumatic brain injuries is that they may show obvious signs sometimes and other times they might not show any signs at all. But it is very important that you diagnose any such injury accurately and as soon as possible.

Because, it can lead to alteration in cognition, behavior, speech, hormones, vision, and even other internal organs thus affecting your normal body functions.

And if these are not detected accurately and timely it might even lead to neurodegeneration leading to worse diseases.

Due to the symptoms not being very obvious, the diagnosis is also very difficult and complicated. It has been observed that over 75% of brain injuries go undetected on MRIs and CT scans.

If we see then the only foolproof way to diagnose a brain injury is to first get your scans done and then those analyses to be followed by psychological and neuropsychological examinations; to actually get a clear picture of what is happening.

3. Limitations

As we have seen above, both MRI and CTs are very useful tools when it comes to the diagnosis of injuries, there are a few reasons for this.

Tissue injuries are very interior in the body and can easily go unnoticed by an MRI or even a CT scan. Similarly, other abnormalities like these might also miss out on these scans.

Some traumatic brain injuries do not show up easily or quickly, indeed they might not occur even after days. So, if something is very small, implying microscopic, it can easily be missed including a microscopic brain bleed or damage in the nerve fiber.

There can be external factors affecting the accuracy of both your MRI and CT scans. If the radiologist who is assigned to assess the scans does not have enough experience or does not use the latest technology then he/she might miss out on identifying the exact injuries.

If the scans that are being performed are not on the newest possible appliances, then you need to ask for a special contrast dye in the absence of which the scans will not clearly show the exact extent of damage.

Another problem is that when a radiologist examines the scans, they do it with utmost precision but that does not imply that there is no scope for mistakes whatsoever.

Although they are trained professionals they can still make mistakes and one of the major reasons for that is having incomplete information, whenever you get any kind of scanning done MRI or CT.

Make sure that you provide the examiner with your previous reports and symptoms plus the causes of your injuries if any. This way they can interpret your scans better and provide you with a better analysis.

4. Final Thoughts: Can a Brain Bleed be Missed on a CT Scan?

As we have seen above brain injuries affect the body, it is very necessary that they be diagnosed and tracked well in time to prevent them from further degrading our bodies.

So, to accomplish this, make sure that not only do you get all your necessary scans done but also follow a proper neuropsychological examination to understand the literal situation as there can be cases where a scan might miss a brain bleed, and later affect you.

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by soubhik


Anushree Khandelwal
  1. This article on the potential limitations of CT scans in detecting brain bleeds is an eye-opener. It provides a comprehensive overview of the working mechanisms of CT scans and MRIs, shedding light on their strengths and weaknesses. The explanation of why brain injuries might be missed on scans, the challenges in diagnosing them, and the importance of psychological and neuropsychological examinations add depth to the discussion. The article encourages readers to be proactive in understanding the factors influencing scan accuracy and emphasizes the need for a holistic approach to brain injury diagnosis. A valuable read for those seeking insights into medical imaging and brain injury detection!

  2. This article is worth reading. Most of the people are unaware of these situations. CT scans and MRIs are wonderful tools to diagnose injuries but they don’t always catch every injury. If an MRI or CT scan comes up negative for a TBI but you know something isn’t right, talk to your doctor about other neuroimaging options and tests.

  3. In-depth exploration! CT and MRI scans excel in detecting macroscopic lesions, yet microscopic injuries in neural connections can be challenging. The article outlines the workings of CT and MRI scans, highlighting their capabilities and limitations.

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