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Should I get a CT scan or MRI of my brain if I have headaches that aren’t causing neurological signs (for example weakness in the right hand, double vision, loss of vision, trouble speaking, sudden thunderclap onset, weakness in left foot, etc)?


MedHead Confidence Score: 7
Amount Saved: $1,200 CT scan cost or $2,625 MRI cost post


MedHead Message:

A lot of people have headaches, even chronic ones. However, a very small number have serious pathology that requires surgical intervention. Brain tumors and strokes do actually happen, but they are almost exclusively associated with red flag signs. The overwhelming majority of head CT and MRI’s are completely normal, and waste you a lot of money.  If you ARE experiencing gradually worsening headaches over weeks to months, sudden “thunderclap” headache that you have never had before, double vision, or sudden weakness on one side of your body, then get the scan. But otherwise there’s not good evidence to get a scan right now. That brain MRI you just did could cover a really nice weekend vacation on the beach, or a nice chunk on your house mortgage 😉


1. http://www.choosingwisely.org/clinician-lists/american-college-radiology-imaging-for-uncomplicated-headache/

2. https://www.newchoicehealth.com/procedures/brain-ct-scan

3. https://www.newchoicehealth.com/procedures/brain-mri-scan


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