How To Read A Brain MRI Radiology Report - Part II

In this series of articles, we aim to help you to better understand your own radiology report.

Learn how to understand your brain MRI images with BrainKey

A radiology report contains your diagnostic imaging results. The radiologist writes this report to summarize his opinion and thoughts regarding the examination performed. The report should convey all the necessary information concerning the examination so that it could be duplicated as well as the information concerning the findings - both positive and negative.

A radiology report is a legal medical document and is treated accordingly. The report is primarily written for the requesting physician, however, more and more they will include some language that the patient may understand as well. Yet, the report might be confusing to read if you're not a healthcare provider.

In this series of articles, we aim to help you to better understand your own radiology report.

In our first article of this series, we explained how radiology reports are organized. You can find this article here on our blog.

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In this article, neuroradiologist Dr. Edmond Knopp explains some of the terminology that is often used in radiology reports.

A common term used in radiology reports is the word “unremarkable”.

This is a fancy way to say normal.

You also often read the expression that something is “within normal limits”.

This simply means that it looks normal.

Another line that frequently shows up in radiology reports is “no evidence of acute intracranial hemorrhage, midline shift or mass effect”.

This is a statement excluding any of those mentioned findings. It does not mean that it’s normal, it just means there is no hemorrhage (bleeding), shift, or mass effect. This is a good thing. A bleeding, shift, and a mass effect are all medical emergencies.*


Also often found in radiology reports is the phrase “mild paranasal sinus disease without air-fluid levels”.

This is a phrase to indicate that there are some inflammatory (reactive) changes in the sinuses without any evidence to suggest something acutely (active) going on.

Lastly, a common phrase found in radiology reports is “the skull base vessels demonstrate preserved flow voids suggesting patency”.

This is another way to say the blood vessels going to your brain are open with flowing blood. This again is a good thing. It means that blood is flowing properly to your brain so your brain is supplied with adequate oxygen.

*A midline shift occurs when the pressure exerted by the buildup of blood and swelling around the damaged brain tissues is powerful enough to push the entire brain off-center. A mass effect is a phenomenon in which a focal lesion or contusion causes surrounding areas of brain tissue or brain structures to be compressed and injured due to the degree of space that leaking blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or edema takes up within the restricted skull space.


Dr. Edmond Knopp is a Neuroradiologist with international recognition in tumor imaging. He has over 26 years of private practice and academic experience.  Dr. Knopp was on faculty at NYU School of Medicine for over 20 + years. While at NYU Dr. Knopp served multiple roles including Director of Neuroradiology and most recently Associate Chairman for Quality, Technology and Safety. He is a graduate of Emory University and received his Medical Doctorate from the State University of NY – Downstate. He was a surgical resident for 2 years followed by a Radiology Residency and a 2-year Neuroradiology Fellowship. He is a senior member of the ASNR and an American Board of Radiology examiner recently receiving a Lifetime Service Award in 2015. He has over 80 publications and has given hundreds of international and national presentations.