What Is A CT Scan?

A computerized tomography (CT) scan is a diagnostic imaging technique used to produce detailed pictures of the bones, organs, and other tissues. A computed tomography scan can be performed on any part of the body and does not cause pain or discomfort. CT scans provide more detailed pictures of the structures inside of a patient's body than a standard x-ray would. Computerized tomography scans do not produce as much detail as MRI scans, but they are less expensive to perform and used more often than MRI scans. A CT scan uses a large doughnut-shaped machine the patient slides into on a special table. The computerized tomography machine has a much larger opening and is not as deep as an MRI machine, making sedation less necessary for some patients.

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How The Scan Works


Computerized tomography scans make two-dimensional pictures of a section of a patient's body. This scan uses numerous narrow beams of radiation that are sent through a patient's body in an arc shape. This allows for a collection of x-rays of the body to be taken from different angles. The x-ray apparatus inside of a CT scanner can see hundreds of degrees of tissue density, giving it the ability to form details specific to certain tissues within an organ. The cross-sectional x-rays are compiled and built into a two or three-dimensional representation of the body that is then projected onto a monitor. Computerized tomography scans have improved significantly since their debut in the 1970s. CT scanners can be found in outpatient facilities as well as hospitals. A CT scan can help clarify an abnormality in a patient's body another test has picked up, such as an ultrasound or an x-ray.

Learn more about when computerized tomography scans are used next.

Whitney Alexandra