- A CT scan is a noninvasive, painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.
CT scanning uses special x-ray equipment to produce multiple pictures of the inside of the body and a computer to join them together in cross-sectional views of the area being studied. The images can then be examined by a radiologist for interpretation.
CT scans of internal organs, bone, soft tissue, and blood vessels provide greater clarity than conventional x-ray exams.
CT or "CAT" scans are special x-ray tests that produce cross-sectional images of the body using x-rays and a computer. These images allow the radiologist to look at the inside of the body just as one would look at the inside of a loaf of bread by slicing it.
CT scans are frequently used to evaluate the brain, neck, spine, chest, abdomen, pelvis and sinuses. Head or brain CT evaluates the various structures of the brain, and to look for a mass, stroke, bleed or blood vessel abnormality. It is also sometimes used to evaluate the skull. Neck CT evaluates the soft tissues of the neck and is frequently used to study a lump or mass in the neck or to look for enlarged lymph nodes or glands.
CT of the chest is frequently used to further evaluate an abnormality on a plain chest X-ray. It is also often used to look for enlarged lymph nodes. Abdominal and pelvic CT evaluates the abdominal and pelvic organs and the gastrointestinal tract. These studies are often ordered to evaluate for a cause of pain and sometimes to follow-up on an abnormality seen on another test such as an ultrasound.
Sinus CT exam is used to both diagnose sinus disease and to look for a narrowing or obstruction in the sinus drainage pathway. Spine CT test is most commonly used to look for a herniated disc or narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) in patients with neck, arm back and/or leg pain. The CT scanner looks like a large donut with a narrow table. The patient lies on the table which moves through the center of the machine. The technologist is in the next room and can observe the patient through a large window.
Some scans (abdomen and pelvis) require the patient to drink a dilute barium liquid prior to the scan. Also, for certain exams contrast or dye must be injected into a vein during the scan. The entire procedure takes 15 to 45 minutes depending on what part of the body is being scanned. After the scan is finished, a board certified radiologist will interpret the study and send a report to the referring physician.