A pneumoencephalogram was once a common medical imaging procedure, introduced in 1919 by an American neurosurgeon Walter Dandy.
The procedure involved a lumbar puncture, with the removal of a small volume of cerebrospinal fluid and injection of air, oxygen, or helium in its place. The gas would naturally displace fluid and rise to the patient’s head when the patient was turned upright. This allowed the structure of the brain to show up more clearly on an X-ray image. Headaches and severe vomiting were common side effects. It was generally not well tolerated by patients. Abnormalities such as tumor or hydrocephalus could be appreciated by skilled radiologists as a deviation of the appearance of the ventricles from normal. Large tumors of the pituitary gland could also be detected in this manner.
It is derived from ventriculography, an earlier and more primitive procedure, where the air was injected through holes drilled in the skull.
References and Readings
- Feldstein, N. A. (2003). Purulent focal infections. In C. Rudolph, A. Rudolph, M. Hostetter, G. Lister, & N. Siegel (Eds.), Rudolph’s pediatrics (21st ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
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