Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Cranial Ultrasound
ultrasound uses reflected sound waves to make
pictures of the brain and its inner fluid chambers (ventricles). Cerebrospinal fluid flows through these chambers.
This test is most
commonly done on babies. It checks for problems from premature birth. It may be used to check problems in the brain and
ventricles in babies up to about 18 months old.
Ultrasound waves can't pass through bones. So an
ultrasound to check the brain can't be done after the bones of the skull
(cranium) have grown together. Cranial ultrasound can be done on babies before
the bones of the skull have grown together. Or it can be done on adults after the skull has
been opened with surgery. In
adults, the test may be done to see brain masses during brain
The test looks for possible problems of
premature birth, such as:
IVH and PVL increase a baby's risk of having disabilities. These may range from mild learning or motor skill delays to
cerebral palsy or
an intellectual disability.
IVH is more common in premature babies than in full-term babies. When it
occurs, it most often happens in the first 3 to 4 days after birth. Most
cases of IVH can be found with cranial ultrasound by the first week after
birth. But PVL can take several weeks to detect. If PVL
cranial ultrasound may be repeated 4 to 8 weeks after the birth. Several of these tests may be done to check areas in
Cranial ultrasound may also be done to
check a baby's large or increasing head size. The test can also check for infection in or around
the brain (such as from
meningitis). Or it may check for brain problems that are
present from birth (such as
may be done on an adult to help find a brain mass. Because the test can't be done after the skull bones have fused, it is only done after the
skull has been opened during brain surgery.
In babies, cranial ultrasound usually is done:
In adults, the test may be done during brain
surgery to help find a brain mass.
You don't need to do anything special to prepare for this test.
If an older baby is having the test, it
may help if the baby is a little hungry. You can feed your baby during the
test. This may help calm your baby so he or she will hold still during the
This test is done by a doctor who is an expert in imaging tests (radiologist). Or it may be done
by an ultrasound technologist (sonographer) who works along with a radiologist.
For a baby, the test may be done at the baby's bedside in the
neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Your baby will lie on his or her back.
The transducer is moved across the soft spot on top of the head.
This spot is called the fontanelle. You may be asked to hold your baby during the test. Pictures of the brain and
inner fluid chambers (ventricles) can be seen on a video screen.
For an adult, the test is done during brain surgery to help
find a brain mass.
The test usually takes 15 to 30
The test usually doesn't cause discomfort. The gel used for the test may feel cold on the skin unless it is warmed first.
There are no known risks for this test.
ultrasound uses reflected sound waves to make
pictures of the brain and its inner fluid chambers (ventricles).
Cerebrospinal fluid flows through these chambers.
The size and shape of the brain look
The size of the brain's inner fluid
chambers (ventricles) is normal.
Brain tissue looks normal. There are no signs of bleeding,
suspicious areas (lesions), abnormal growths, or infection.
Bleeding in the brain may be present. This
may be a sign of intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). The test may be repeated to keep track of the bleeding or to look for problems caused by the
Suspicious areas or lesions around the
brain's ventricles may be seen. This may be a sign of periventricular
The brain and ventricles may be enlarged
from the buildup of too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This may
be a sign of
Abnormal growths may be present. This may
be a sign of a tumor or
Suspicious findings may be present. This
may be a sign of
You or your baby may not be able to have the test, or the results may not be helpful, if:
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
Sloan MA, et al. (2004). Assessment: Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography. Report of the Therapeutics and Technology Assessment Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology, 62(9): 1468–1481. Also available online: http://neurology.org/content/62/9/1468.full.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerHoward Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
Current as ofFebruary 19, 2016
Current as of:
February 19, 2016
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Howard Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
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