A recent study shows that unnecessary brain scans for headaches may cost patients as much as $1 billion a year. Before getting a brain scan, talk to your doctor about your risk factors, and whether a brain scan is necessary in your case.

If your current headache treatment is not working, TMJ might be involved in your headache.

Rising Numbers of Brain Scans

The research was presented as a letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine. Researchers found that more doctors are sending people for brain scans if they have headaches. Only about 5% of patient visits resulted in brain scans in 1995, but this number rose to 15% in 2010. The majority of patients were under age 65, and about three-quarters of them were women.

When asked, doctors are giving brain scans primarily for patient reassurance. If people are concerned that there may be something serious that is wrong, their doctor may recommend a brain scan to allay fears. Doctors might also recommend a brain scan for defensive reasons or because they have a profit motive. Many doctors have invested in the for-profit centers that conduct brain scans and other outpatient services.

Vague Guidelines

Another problem that contributes to rising brain scans in is the lack of clear guidelines for when brain scans should be performed. Although the US Headache Consortium developed brain imaging guidelines for nonacute headache, these guidelines are not very high quality.

The best recommendations are only rated a “B” grade, and include:

  • Brain scans should be used if a patient has an abnormal finding on a neurologic exam
  • Migraines with normal neurologic findings don’t normally require a brain scan

Otherwise, recommendations are made with little confidence, “because of insufficient evidence.”

Talk to your doctor about your risks and whether a brain scan may be recommended for you.

TMJ Treatment for Headaches

Whether or not you have a brain scan, if your current headache treatment isn’t giving you relief, perhaps TMJ is responsible for your headaches. At the Craniofacial Diagnostic Center of Colorado, we can evaluate your symptoms and determine whether TMJ might be the cause.

To learn whether TMJ might be causing your headaches, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver.