The CT scan (computed tomography scan) is a procedure that allows a doctor to look inside the patient’s body. This is done by combining X-rays with a computer. The result is a 3D picture of bones, organs and other body tissues. More details are visible than with the regular X-ray.
A CT scan can be performed on any body part. This is a procedure that does not take a lot of time and is completely painless. There are even clinics that use a mobile CT scanner for higher convenience for both patients and doctors.
Narrow X-ray beams are used. They circle around a body part, offering images from various angles. A computer utilizes the information in order to create a picture. One scan (known as a “slice”) shows one layer of the inside of the body part that is pictured. Then, the process is repeated so that numerous slices are created. It is the computer that uses the scans to create a detailed image of blood vessels, bones or organs. Simply put, the CT scan creates numerous 2D images that are then united to create a 3D view of what is scanned.
Most people will get a CT scan done at a radiology clinic or a hospital. It is also possible to get one done at home in some situations, with the use of a mobile CT scanner. Doctors tell patients not to drink or eat for a number of hours before the scan is done. Also, hospital gowns are normally worn and you need to remove all metal objects from the body.
CT scans are performed by radiology technologists. Usually, you lie on the table inside a CT machine that is large and doughnut-shaped. The table will move you through the scanner. As this happens, X-rays rotate around the body. Because of the fact that movement blurs images, you need to stay still and there are times when you are told that you have to hold your breath.
The duration of the CT scan is determined by what body part is scanned. This can range from just a few minutes to 30 minutes. Usually, you can go home right after the CT scan is done.
There are many different reasons why doctors will order a CT scan. Some of the common reasons are:
- Detecting joint and bone problems, like tumors or bone fractures.
- Identifying internal bleeding and injuries.
- Being affected by a condition like heart disease, cancer or emphysema. In this case the CT scan is done in order to see if there are any changes from the last review.
- Locating excess fluid, infections, blood clots or tumors.
- Getting an image of the body part before a procedure is performed, like a biopsy or a surgery.
- Comparing CT scans to see if the treatment works or not.
A CT scan will use X-rays so ionizing radiation is produced. Such radiation can damage the DNA and, in some situations, can lead to the appearance of cancer. However, risks are small, with chances of developing a fatal form of cancer due to the CT scan being around 1 in 20,000.
The big risk comes from the fact that the effect of radiation does add up as time passes. This means that you are exposed to more risks the more CT scans you get. It is important to talk to the doctor about the potential benefits and dangers. Only get a CT scan in the event that it is necessary and your doctor requests it.
It needs to be included that radiation can be particularly harmful to children since they are still growing. Settings always have to be adjusted for children before the scans are done. Also, you need to let the doctor know if you are pregnant.
There are people that are allergic to the materials used during a CT scan. While the reaction is normally mild, a small rash or itchiness, it is important to be aware of the situation. The healthcare provider has to monitor patients after the CT scan for the appearance of side effects. This is especially needed for the first CT scan a patient receives.
Doctors need to be aware of allergies that you might have to seafood, iodine or medications. Also, If you have diabetes and you take metformin, you need to let the doctor know.
Scott has been working in the radiology field for over 30 years. He finds the biological phenomenons found in humankind fascinating and appreciates the incredible use that diagnostic imagery has to save lives. Other than acting as the President for Catalina Imaging, Scott enjoys spreading the word on new insights and breakthroughs in the radiology field, specifically the impact that mobile imaging has for patient care.
To read more on topics like this, check out the health and fitness category.