Diagnosing paralysis 

Diagnosing paralysis is not usually necessary if the cause is obvious  for example, if paralysis has occurred after a stroke.

If tests are needed to help diagnose paralysis, the type of tests required will depend on the underlying cause.

Some tests used to help determine the extent of paralysis include:

  • X-ray  where small doses of radiation are passed through your body to create an image of the denser areas, such as your bones; X-rays can be a useful way of assessing damage to your spine or neck
  • CT scan  where a computer is used to assemble a series of X-ray images to build up a more detailed picture of your bones and tissue; CT scans are often used to assess the extent of damage after a severe head injury or spinal cord injury
  • MRI scan  which uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a detailed image of the inside of your body; an MRI scan can help detect brain damage or spinal cord damage 
  • myelography  a way of checking the nerve fibres in your spinal cord in more detail (a special fluid called contrast dye is injected into the nerves, which makes them show up very clearly on an X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan)
  • electromyography  where sensors are used to measure the electrical activity in your muscles and nerves; electromyography is often used to diagnose Bell's palsy (temporary facial paralysis) 

Page last reviewed: 28/08/2014

Next review due: 30/06/2017