Can an MRI scan diagnose Vasculitis?

I have recently had an MRI scan of my brain and spinal cord as I have had some numbness in both my arms and legs, blurred vision and occassional numbness in my face. The MRI result has come back with no problems detected, I know my specialist wanted to rule out a neurological underlying condition or any inflamation caused by sle. My doctor has said the result shows that the vasculitis I have is not present in my brain but I didn't think that would be able to be detected. Can anyone shed any light?

Many Thanks

15 Replies

  • Vasculitis in the brain can be detected by an MRI brain scan. Mine was, in 1997, with 3 lesions showing, which should never be there in someone in their early 20s. However the consultant couldn't be sure what was causing the lesions, which looked very like those of MS as well as other inflammatory diseases. So more tests were needed. The MRI was just a first step.

    However MRI brain scans can also be normal even with vasculitis or other inflammatory diseases present. It depends on how active the disease is, and also how large any lesions are, whether they are visible in an MRI.

  • Thanks Viv

    I am also due to have nerve conductivity tests and am seeing an eye specialist soon so will see if they show anything up. I was also wondering if the fact that I am on predisolone would be masking any inflammation. It was a relief to hear the MRI was normal but it hasn't out my mind at rest as I am experiencing so many strange symptoms and its all so new to me. I am discovering its such a little known about illness and really appreciate everyones input,


  • I don't know if being on prednisolone would mask things. I didn't start any treatment until about 4 months after all my tests and diagnosis. As part of the massive amount of tests I had a visual evoked potential test, because my vision was very abnormal. But the VEP was normal, helping to rule out MS as the cause. There was something else going wrong with my vision, and ultimately the consultant settled on the cerebral vasculitis diagnosis.

    Good luck!

  • Hi Jenny, usually when an MRI is requested, they suggest an MRA which has higher resonance and can pick up smaller vessel issues. The scans however are only a small part of the jig saw. In my case of CNSV there are no apparent lesions however there are changes on the scans showing some damage is occuring. The main damage shown intially was from the strokes i suffered in the early days before i was diagnosed as a direct result of the restricted blood flow from the CNSV. I have since had further damage taking place during my current flare but still not presenting as lesions. I have had VER Visual Evoked Responses )which showed a time delay in my left eye. This being the eye that i lost my sight in for 5 weeks in the early days of my condition again a long time before my diagnosis. Unfortunately there is no hard and fast rule to diagnose CNSV its lots of pieces of a jigsaw and then it is a case of ruling out everything else first. Even with a larger number of pieces the jigsaw initially is still deemed to be probable CNSV and only if/when the illness continues on a more recognisable path is it assumed to be.This is why CNSV made an ideal story line for one of the first episodes of 'House'. None of this is any comfort to the sufferer, who continues to experience all manner of strange and uncomprehensible symptoms which THEY KNOW are not normal for them but none the less have to spend massive amounts of time and energy convincing everyone they are ill and not going mad. I remember in the early days a 'well meaning' medic told me i was not ill it was all in my head. When i was diagnosed by another hospital i took delight in returning to said professional to tell him " You were right ... it was all in my head..... But guess what i am ill i have CNSV and it is in my head my brain to be exact". I am not normally someone who seeks revenge but that moment in time was priceless and gave me the fight i needed to accept i had CNSV.

    Hope everything works out and don't be pushed off your path by anyone whatever they diagnose it is you has to deal with it

    Good luck!

  • Thanks for your answer, what a complicated illness this is and how hard to get a full diagnosis of what is going on. Over the last few years I have had vasculitic rashes over my lower legs but what extent the vasculitis is spread is unclear as my specialist does not know whether my numbness is caused by auto immune issues or nerve damage caused by vasculitis. Relieved as I was to get an all clear on the MRI it hasn't put my mind at rest as I feel I'm still none the wiser.

    Have a good weekend and thank you

  • Hi Jenny, my cerebral vasculitis was diagnosed by an MRA - where the dye was injected into a vein in my groin. It was the radiology consultant how spotted the abnormal blood vessels and completed the diagnosis. It was such a relief because most of my other tests were coming back normal - especially my bloods. Fortunately I was diagnosed and treated early so I have only slight difficulties with left sided weakness and nerve damage in my hand. Though it is an unpleasant test, I'd ask about an MRA with contrast dye.

  • Hi Lynda

    Thanks for your reply, my specialist mentioned this and I thought I was having that exact test but when I went to have the MRI the radiographer didn't have that request. I think I will ask, not relishing the prospect though!

    Have a good weekend. Jenny

  • Hi, I know its not CNSV but I have just been referred for an MRI to check the blood vessels in my intestines to double check for gut vasculitis to go with my skin vasculitis. I have unexplained internal bleeding and constant diarrhea. Consultant said they were going to look for some damage to my blood vessels in there. I have had ALL the usual and unusual internal biopsies, cameras etc already.

  • Hi does a standard MRI test show blood vessels in intestines or do you need to get an MRA? I am a bit confused about the two and i am thinking about getting an angiogram because i am suspecting vasculitis in my gut. Your input would be appreciated. thank you

  • Hi Matt

    I really don't know the answer to your question and it may well be a question that only your specialist could answer as I know from my own experience diagnosis was reached by piecing symptoms and test results together and sometimes there is no definitive test as such.

    Have you had a look at the vasculitis UK website, there is a helpline number and I'm sure they will be able to give you some really helpful advice.

    Take Care

  • Hi i am 42 years old and I am currently not diagnosed but have my appointment this Tuesday. Does anyone get black veins at night? I have fire burning sensations everywhere my muscles and joints hurt and I just recently started having Epileptic simple seizures. I have been on 50 mg of steroids so that I could walk again but unfortunately all my tests came back masked from the steroid. My MRI showed no lesions. Can a steroid mask this? My hands and knee caps are swollen again and I'm just scared. I can't wait until Tuesday to see this doctor. They say he diagnoses people that other rheumatologist struggle diagnosing. It is showing I am having nodules and scar tissue in my lungs that weren't there before and it's not cancer and whatever this is keeps attacking my intestines. I have been hospitalized with surgery and also had my intestines quit working (no blood flow) for 3 days. These seizures are putting me over the edge. So again my question is can steroids mask an MRI? Any input would be greatly appreciated. Than you !!!!

  • Hi I believe steroids can mask MRI tests and inflammation. Did you end up getting one? I have something that is believed to be vasculitis that is attacking my entire GI tract. Was wondering what tests would be best to detect vasculitis in the intestines.

  • Just wondering what my forthcoming BRAIN SCAN WILL REVEAL?

  • Hi There

    A few years since I posted that and funnily enough had another head mri yesterday as still having unexplained symptoms but have other diagnoses now though so not necessary vasculitis related.  Good luck with your scan, its very much a case of specialists piecing the symptoms/tests results together for a diagnosis to be made.  Hope it doesn't reveal anything but you get to the bottom of your symptoms.


  • I was diagnosed with GCA last July after PMR for a year.  I had a cranial MRI with injection last week and no vasculitis was shown, there were some non-specific and age related changes (I've had previous TIAs) but nothing else.  I have heard first hand of several people who were diagnosed with GCA by a PET scan.  I want my doctor to order one of my abdomen and chest as I have pain in these areas with the GCA symptoms. 

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