Computed tomography, more commonly known as a CT or CAT scan, is a diagnostic medical test that, like traditional x-rays, produces multiple images or pictures of the inside of the body.
The cross-sectional images generated during a CT scan can be reformatted in multiple planes, and can even generate three-dimensional images. These images can be viewed on a computer monitor, printed on film or transferred to a CD or DVD.
CT images of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels typically provide greater detail than traditional x-rays, particularly of soft tissues and blood vessels.
Using specialized equipment and expertise to create and interpret CT scans of the body, radiologists can more easily diagnose problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, appendicitis, trauma and musculoskeletal disorders.
What are some common uses of the procedure?
CT imaging is:
- one of the fastest and most accurate tools for examining the chest, abdomen and pelvis because it provides detailed, cross-sectional views of all types of tissue.
- used to examine patients with injuries from trauma such as a motor vehicle accident.
- performed on patients with acute symptoms such as chest or abdominal pain or difficulty breathing.
- often the best method for detecting many different cancers, such as lymphoma and cancers of the lung, liver, kidney, ovary and pancreas since the image allows a physician to confirm the presence of a tumor, measure its size, identify its precise location and determine the extent of its involvement with other nearby tissue.
- an examination that plays a significant role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of vascular diseases that can lead to stroke, kidney failure or even death. CT is commonly used to assess for pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lung vessels) as well as for aortic aneurysms.
- invaluable in diagnosing and treating spinal problems and injuries to the hands, feet and other skeletal structures because it can clearly show even very small bones as well as surrounding tissues such as muscle and blood vessels.