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The majority of cerebrovascular problems can be identified through diagnostic imaging tests. These tests allow vascular specialists to view the arteries and vessels in and around the brain and the brain tissue.

The Penn Neurovascular Center offers works closely with the Department of Radiology, one of the most sophisticated facilities in the nation, providing state-of-the-art neuroradiological diagnostic tools to evaluate neurovascular disease. The Department of Radiology includes a specialized staff of imaging experts who can perform and evaluate images resulting in accurate diagnoses.

Diagnostic Tools for Neurovascular Disorders


An MRI is a diagnostic test that produces three-dimensional images of body structures using magnetic fields and computer technology. It produces very clear images of various types of nerve tissue and clear pictures of the brain stem and posterior brain. MRI of the brain can help determine many disorders including whether there are signs of prior mini-strokes. The test is noninvasive and painless.

mri machine

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) 

An MRA is a noninvasive study which is conducted in a Magnetic Resonance Imager (MRI). The magnetic images are assembled by a computer to provide an image of the arteries located in a patient’s head and neck. The MRA shows the actual blood vessels in the neck and brain and can help detect blockage and aneurysms.

Computerized Tomography Angiography (CTA)

CTA is a diagnostic image created after a computer reads x-rays. In some cases, a dye will be injected through a vein to help highlight brain structures. CTA allows clinicians to see blood vessels of the head and neck and is increasingly being used.


Although an MRA can provide images of blood vessels of the head and neck, the details are usually not enough in cases such as an aneurysm. In these situations, a neurovascular angiogram may be necessary. During this procedure, a catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin and directed to the neck or head from within the blood vessels. Once the catheter is in position, contrast dye is injected and X-rays are taken. The result is a detailed image of the vascular system that supplies blood to the brain. Surgeons are then able to determine the appropriate type of treatment.

Second Opinion for Neurovascular Disorders

Many individuals seek a second opinion from Penn's neurosurgeons to help decide what the best treatment might be for their neurovascular disorder.

During a second opinion, a Penn neurosurgeon will review your medical history, current diagnosis and any images that have been taken. It is very important to bring all images, regardless of how long ago they were taken.

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