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It is likely you will have either an MRI or CT on the day of your initial assessment.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

MRI is a type of scan using strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. It is painless and safe, but may be uncomfortable if you have claustrophobia. Not everyone can have an MRI scan, for example people who have certain types of metal implants fitted, such as a pacemaker.

You may have a special dye called a contrast injected into a blood vessel to help improve the quality of the images. The contrast is normally completely harmless and will pass out of your body in your urine; however, there’s a small risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used. The scan lasts 20-50 minutes, depending on the images taken. It makes a loud tapping noise at times, so you can wear earplugs or headphones.

Computerised tomography (CT)

A CT scan uses X-rays to create images of the inside of the body. The scanner consists of a ring that rotates around your head as you pass through it. 

Unlike a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, the scanner doesn’t surround your whole body at once, so you shouldn’t feel claustrophobic.

The scan will usually take around 10-20 minutes. CT scans are quick, painless and generally safe, but you will be exposed to some X-ray radiation. The benefits and risks of having a CT scan will always be weighed up before it’s recommended. CT scans aren’t usually recommended for pregnant women unless it’s an emergency.

Your scan results may not be available immediately, as the images are reviewed and reported on by a consultant radiologist who specialises in brain imaging.