Diagnosis of Encephalitis

The diagnosis of encephalitis is usually not very simple or straightforward. This is because the condition itself mimics the symptoms of some other, less serious conditions.

Since a lot of the symptoms of encephalitis are like those of flu and stomach infections, a lot of times, encephalitis may go undiagnosed. When the patient presents forth with some of these symptoms, the doctor may prescribe some tests, which can ascertain whether the person has encephalitis or some other condition.

One of the best indicators is the speed at which all the symptoms manifest themselves. Unlike some of the other diseases that affect the brain, encephalitis is acute and the symptoms may present themselves over a period of a few weeks. Some of the tests for encephalitis include:

  • Imaging of the brain using PET, SPECT or MRI scans
  • CT scan of the entire head
  • Blood culture
  • Urine culture
  • Cerebrospinal fluid culture
  • Electroencephalogram, also known as an EEG
  • Examination of the cerebrospinal fluid, collected with the help of lumbar puncture or a spinal tap
  • Serology tests to detect antibodies
  • Polymerase chain reaction to detect even the tiniest amount of virus DNA in the body
In case the above tests present conflicting information, or the test results are unclear, you may need to have a brain biopsy. However, since brain biopsy is a complicated and dangerous process, doctors usually recommend it as a last resort.