Research, Scientific Breakthroughs, & Caregiver Tips
How Is Encephalitis Diagnosed?
If you exhibit symptoms consistent with encephalitis, your healthcare provider will move through a series of diagnostic steps to see if you have the condition.
- Physical exam and medical history. The doctor will look for signs that you may be at risk for encephalitis. He or she may ask if you’ve recently had a gastrointestinal or respiratory illness (cold or flu), if you’ve been at risk for a tick or mosquito bite, or if you’ve recently traveled to areas where encephalitis is known to be prevalent.
- Laboratory tests. Tests of your blood, urine, stool, and throat cultures can determine whether or not there is an infection in your body that could lead to encephalitis.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG). This test monitors your brain’s electrical activity and can help to detect abnormalities in brain function.
- Imaging tests. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans can detect brain swelling caused by encephalitis. These tests may also rule out encephalitis by revealing another condition that’s causing your symptoms.
- Spinal tap. This procedure removes and tests a small amount of the fluid that protects your brain and spinal column. The test can often detect viral infections or inflammation in the brain.
- Brain biopsy. This test, in which a small amount of brain tissue is removed and tested, is rarely used to diagnose encephalitis, but it may be necessary if the condition does not respond to initial treatment.
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