Have you ever heard the term “flow voids” before? If you’re not familiar with this term, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Flow voids are a common finding on MRI scans, and they can be either benign or indicative of a serious underlying medical condition. But what exactly are flow voids, and what do they mean for your health? In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about flow voids, including their causes, symptoms, and possible treatments.
The Basics: What Are Flow Voids?
Before we dive into the details, it’s important to understand what flow voids actually are. Put simply, flow voids are areas of decreased signal intensity on an MRI scan that occur when blood flow moves quickly through blood vessels. They are most commonly found in the brain, but can also be present in other parts of the body. Flow voids can often appear as “black holes” on an MRI image, and are usually characterized by their distinct shape and location.
What Causes Flow Voids?
There are a variety of factors that can cause flow voids to appear on an MRI scan. One of the most common causes is atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries that can impede blood flow. Other potential causes include aneurysms, fistulas, and arteriovenous malformations. Some medications, such as contrast dye, can also cause flow voids to appear on an MRI scan.
What Symptoms Are Associated With Flow Voids?
In many cases, flow voids do not cause any symptoms and are simply a benign finding on an MRI scan. However, if flow voids are indicative of an underlying medical condition, certain symptoms may be present. For example, if an aneurysm or fistula is causing flow voids, a person may experience headaches, dizziness, or vision changes. If atherosclerosis is the cause, a person may experience chest pain or shortness of breath.
Diagnosing Flow Voids
How Are Flow Voids Diagnosed?
The most common way to diagnose flow voids is through an MRI scan. During this non-invasive procedure, a magnetic field and radio waves are used to create detailed images of the body’s internal structures. If flow voids are present, they will appear as areas of decreased signal intensity on the MRI image. In some cases, a computed tomography (CT) scan or ultrasound may also be used to diagnose flow voids.
What Tests May Be Performed?
In addition to imaging tests, other diagnostic tests may be performed to determine the underlying cause of flow voids. These may include blood tests, electrocardiograms (EKGs), and angiograms. The specific tests performed will depend on the suspected cause of the flow voids and the individual’s overall health status.
Treating Flow Voids
Is Treatment Necessary?
In many cases, flow voids do not require any treatment and are simply a benign finding on an MRI scan. However, if flow voids are caused by an underlying medical condition, treatment may be necessary to address the issue and prevent further complications.
What Are Some Possible Treatments?
The specific treatment used for flow voids will depend on the underlying cause of the issue. For example, if flow voids are caused by atherosclerosis, medications to manage high blood pressure and cholesterol may be prescribed. If an aneurysm or fistula is the cause, surgery or endovascular therapy may be necessary to repair the affected blood vessels.
How Are Flow Voids Related to Other Medical Conditions?
What Is the Relationship Between Flow Voids and Multiple Sclerosis?
Flow voids have been found to be more common in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system. However, the exact relationship between flow voids and MS is not well understood, and more research is needed to determine if flow voids are a reliable indicator of MS.
What Is the Relationship Between Flow Voids and Stroke?
Flow voids can be indicative of an increased risk of stroke in certain individuals. For example, if flow voids are present in the carotid artery – the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain – a person may be at an increased risk of stroke. In these cases, medications and lifestyle changes may be recommended to manage the risk of stroke.
Although flow voids can be a concerning finding on an MRI scan, they are not always indicative of a serious underlying medical condition. If flow voids are present, further diagnostic tests may be needed to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. By working closely with a healthcare provider, individuals can better manage their health and reduce the risk of complications related to flow voids.
Common Questions and Answers
- What are flow voids?
Flow voids are areas of decreased signal intensity on an MRI scan that occur when blood flow moves quickly through blood vessels.
- What causes flow voids?
Flow voids can be caused by a variety of factors, such as atherosclerosis, aneurysms, fistulas, and arteriovenous malformations. Some medications can also cause flow voids to appear on an MRI scan.
- What symptoms are associated with flow voids?
In many cases, flow voids do not cause any symptoms. However, if flow voids are indicative of an underlying medical condition, certain symptoms may be present. For example, headaches, dizziness, and vision changes may occur if an aneurysm or fistula is causing flow voids.
- How are flow voids diagnosed?
Flow voids are most commonly diagnosed through an MRI scan. Other tests, such as CT scans or ultrasounds, may also be used in some cases.
- Is treatment necessary for flow voids?
In many cases, flow voids do not require any treatment. However, if flow voids are caused by an underlying medical condition, treatment may be necessary to address the issue and prevent further complications.
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 McRobbie, D.W., Moore, E.A., Graves, M.J., Prince, M.R. (2007). MRI From Picture to Proton. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-52188-072-1.
 Osborn, A.G. (2004). Diagnostic Cerebral Angiography. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 978-0-78171-822-7.