Gaurav Saigal, Natalya Nagornaya, M. Judith Post

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Imaging is useful in the diagnosis and management of infections of the central nervous system. Typically, imaging findings at the outset of the disease are subtle and nonspecific, but they often evolve to more definite imaging patterns in a few days, with less rapidity than for stroke but faster than for neoplastic lesions. This timing is similar to that of noninfectious inflammatory brain disease, such as multiple sclerosis. Fortunately, imaging patterns help to distinguish the two kinds of processes. Other than for sarcoidosis, the meninges are seldom involved in noninfectious inflammation; in contrast, many infectious processes involve the meninges, which then enhance with contrast on computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, brain infection causes a vast array of imaging patterns. Although CT is useful when hemorrhage or calcification is suspected or bony detail needs to be determined, MRI is the imaging modality of choice in the investigation of intracranial infections. Imaging sequences such as diffusion-weighted imaging help in accurately depicting the location and characterizing pyogenic infections and are particularly useful in differentiating bacterial infections from other etiologies. Susceptibility-weighted imaging is extremely useful for the detection of hemorrhage. Although MR spectroscopy findings can frequently be nonspecific, certain conditions such as bacterial abscesses show a relatively specific spectral pattern and are useful in diagnosing and constituting immediate therapy. In this chapter we review first the imaging patterns associated with involvement of various brain structures, such as the epidural and subdural spaces, the meninges, the brain parenchyma, and the ventricles. Involvement of these regions is illustrated with bacterial infections. Next we illustrate the patterns associated with viral and prion diseases, followed by mycobacterial and fungal infections, to conclude with a review of imaging findings in parasitic infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-397
Number of pages33
JournalHandbook of Clinical Neurology
StatePublished - 2016


  • bacterial
  • CT
  • infection
  • intracranial
  • MRI
  • mycobacterial
  • virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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