The Department of Neurosurgery at Akron General offers several types of tests to help specialists identify the specific nature of a neurological injury or disorder. Diagnostic tests help neurosurgical specialists determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Testing may include:
During an Angiography, a series of regular x-rays are taken of the arteries and veins of the head, neck and brain, which have been injected with a contrast material. Angiographies are used to determine the degree of narrowing of an artery, and can identify the location and size of aneurysms and other vascular irregularities.
CT or CAT Scan
The neurological computed tomographic scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) uses an x-ray beam and a computer to generate 2 dimensional images of the head or spine. CAT scans can detect spinal stenosis or a herniated disc, locate brain damage, detect blood clots and brain tumors, show bleeding in aneurysms and more. This type of testing is fast and painless, and CAT scans of the head and brain last from 10 to 45 minutes.
A discography is used to determine if discs in the spinal column are a source of pain. A needle is placed into the disc spaces with x-ray guidance, contrast material is injected and CAT scan images are taken. A discogram identifies discs that cause pain and help the physician plan the correct surgery, while a negative discogram helps avoid unnecessary surgery.
This is a basic imaging test to judge the health of the carotid arteries to help assess a patient's risk of stroke. It is a non-invasive test that takes about 15 to 20 minutes. An electronic hand-held device is passed over the area of concern, which transmits sound waves that are reflected from the neck structures and reconstructed into a picture of the outside and inside of the artery walls. The Doppler can also determine the velocity of blood flow through the artery.
This test is used to learn more about the functioning of peripheral nerves (those in the arms and legs) and can determine if a nerve is pinched, how severely and where. An EMG tests for the electrical impulse coming from the brain and/or spinal cord to the affected area and measures the electrical activity in muscles. In this procedure, the physician places very thin needs into the muscles to record electrical signals to determine if a nerve is functioning properly.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)/Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA)
MRI and MRA are done by a machine that uses radiofrequency energy and a strong magnetic field to provide detailed images of internal organs and tissues. Depending on the part of the body being examined, a contrast agent may be used to enhance the visibility of certain tissue or blood vessel. MRI is used to identify and monitor tumors of the brain and spinal cord, document multiple sclerosis, identify diseases of the blood vessel and stroke, detect tissue abnormality associated with eye or inner ear diseases, and more. MRI is the most sensitive exam for spinal problems, including herniated discs. An MRI/MRA is a non-invasive, no-radiation procedure and can take from 15 minutes to approximately one hour to complete, depending on the part of the body being imaged.
PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan
A PET scan is a nuclear imaging technique that measures cellular and/or tissue metabolism. A PET image can map the biological function of an organ, detect metabolic changes and may be used to determine if a tumor is benign or malignant. The PET scan uses a machine called a cyclotron, which is an accelerator that propels charged particles using alternating voltage in a magnetic field. The patient is injected with a radionuclide specific to the function or type of metabolism being tested for. The radionuclide will collect in that specific area of the body. A computer analyzes the data and produces cross-sectional images on film and/or a video monitor.
Neurosurgical Treatment Options
After a diagnosis has been made, neurosurgeons work with an experienced surgery team to offer treatment for disorders including, but not limited to trauma from car crashes, gun shot wounds or falls and neurological disorders, such as:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Brain and spinal tumors
- Slipped, herniated or bulging lumbar discs
- Trigeminal neuralgia
While surgery is often very helpful, patients may also benefit from additional therapies, such as physical and occupational therapy.
Getting the Right Kind of Therapy
Whether it's recovery from stroke or trauma, Akron General's rehabilitation specialists closely evaluate patients on an individual basis - to determine what's right for the individual. Our occupational therapists are also certified hand therapists, providing state-of-the-art care for hand injuries or disorders.
Physical and occupational therapies are available at Akron General Medical Center for patients who are hospitalized or on an outpatient basis. Physical Therapy is also available at four other convenient community locations along with Sports & Physical Therapy at the Akron General Health & Wellness Center - West, the Akron General Green, Hudson and Tallmadge Health Centers.
The rehabilitation process is different for every patient. Sometimes it requires highly specialized types of therapy or different combinations of therapy including orthopaedic, brain injury and spinal cord rehabilitation. Through our new partnership with Edwin Shaw Rehab, patients and their physicians have access to the region's only comprehensive, fully accredited facility specializing in rehabilitation.
When in-home rehabilitation is required, Visiting Nurse Service & Affiliates can provide physical therapy and skilled nursing along with additional services including traditional home care, private duty, equipment, infusion or end-of-life care.