Computerized Tomographic Diagnosis: Pitfalls for Neurosurgeons

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Computerized tomography as a diagnostic procedure is characterized by its high sensitivity but limited specificity. This lack of specificity may result in an erroneous diagnosis and, possibly, in ill-advised therapy unless clinical and objective data are carefully considered in interpreting the study. The most common pitfalls encountered are the phenomena of contrast enhancement of infarcts and mass effect associated with infarcts. Many different pathological processes can have similar enhancement patterns. The evolution of high density, acute hemorrhage to isodense areas in the chronic hematoma can become a serious diagnostic problem unless an appropriate history is available. The authors discuss 30 cases in which misinterpretation of CT scans resulted in erroneous diagnoses. Seventeen of these patients underwent operation.

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