The clinical value of brain computerised tomography in a general hospital psychiatric service

Usha Chhagan, Jonathan K. Burns


Background: The use of neuroimaging modalities in psychiatry has been evaluated in several studies. The vast majority seem to suggest that neuroimaging may be overutilised in psychiatry. There is a significant constraint on availability and cost related to neuroimaging of patients at general state medical facilities. The routine use of computerised tomography (CT) scanning is thus questioned.

Methods: A retrospective analysis was undertaken of all psychiatric inpatients who had CT scans performed from 01 January 2011 to 31 December 2012. Demographic data, mental state examination, physical examination findings, substance use and diagnosis upon admission were recorded. The relationship between these variables and CT scan findings was analysed.

Results: A total of 897 admissions were retrospectively analysed. One hundred and three patients had documented CT scan imaging. In total, 17 of the 23 patients with abnormal findings on CT scan were found to be psychotic (74.0%). The remaining 26.0% included depression and dementia. There was no statistically significant difference between the normal and abnormal CT scan groups with regard to gender, age, family history, substance use and physical examination. The majority (65.2%) had cerebral atrophy and/or cerebral calcifications. A smaller group of other documented findings was noted.

Conclusions: Selective indications and clinical markers may be utilised in order to justify brain imaging studies rather than performing them routinely. That being true, a multicentre study with a larger sample size is indicated to further improve the statistical significance and assist in formulating a more concrete guideline for neuroimaging of psychiatric patients.


computerised tomography

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Submitted: 23 August 2016
Published: 01 June 2017

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)