But newly published research shows that an innovative type of brain scan can quickly tell doctors exactly where any of these problems lie, and help them decide how to restore blood flow. And it can be done on scanners found in many hospitals.
That's the conclusion of two new papers published in the June issue of the journal Radiology by a team from the University of Michigan Health System. The researchers detail the many potential uses of a technique called perfusion CT, including their own research results and data from a few other teams worldwide.
The U-M team, which has used perfusion CT clinically for several years, hopes their new findings and their comprehensive review of the literature will help many other hospitals decide to adopt the life-saving technique.
Perfusion CT scans can be made by any modern computed tomography machine, with help from special software. Several other brain-scanning techniques that can also reveal blood flow, such as PET, SPECT or xenon CT, require special equipment not found in many hospitals, cost a great deal or are more arduous for patients.
"It's still a relatively new technique, but it could be adapted to any newer-generation CT scanner and be used to image acute and chronic cerebrovascular conditions," says Ellen Hoeffner, M.D., the lead author of one of the two new papers and an assistant professor in the Department of Radiology in the U-M Medical School. "It still isn't completely validated for use in some conditions, but more research will help."