How does the doctor diagnose paralysis?

Diagnosing paralysis is often easy to do because the main symptom — loss of muscle control in a body area — is obvious. An important part of the diagnosis is to determine the cause of the paralysis. This can be relatively straightforward if the paralysis occurs after an event such as a stroke or spinal cord injury. Sometimes, the doctor might want to learn more about the injury that’s causing the paralysis, the degree of the paralysis, and/or the state of the nerves involved. To do that, the doctor might use one or more of these tests:

  • X-ray: This test uses small amounts of radiation to produce detailed images of the dense structures inside the body, such as the bones.
  • CT scan: CT uses computers to combine many X-ray images into cross-sectional views of the inside of the body.
  • MRI: MRI uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to create clear images of the body.
  • Myelography: This test uses a contrast dye that is injected into the spinal canal to make the nerves show up very clearly on an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI.
  • Electromyography (EMG): This test is used to measure the electrical activity in the muscles and nerves.
  • Spinal tap: A long needle is injected into the spine to collect spinal fluid.

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