What is Computed Tomography?

Computed tomography is a type of imaging that uses x-ray photons to produce images with digital reconstruction. The CT scanner essentially consists of an x-ray tube and detectors. You can find more information below.

What is computed tomography?

Computed tomography , also known as a CT scan , combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images of the bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues in your body. CT scan images provide more detailed information than plain X-rays.

Computed tomography scanning has many uses, but is particularly well suited for quickly examining people who may have internal injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma. A CT scan can be used to visualize nearly any part of the body and is used to diagnose diseases or injuries as well as to plan medical, surgical or radiation therapy.

Why is computed tomography necessary?

Your doctor may recommend a computed tomography scan to detect the following conditions:

  • To diagnose muscle and bone disorders such as bone tumors and fractures
  • To locate a tumor, infection, or blood clot
  • To guide procedures such as surgery, biopsy, and radiation therapy
  • To detect and monitor diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, lung nodules and liver masses
  • To monitor the effectiveness of certain treatments, such as cancer treatment
  • To detect internal injuries and internal bleeding
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What are the risks of computed tomography?

Risks generally include the following:

radiation exposure

During a CT scan, you are briefly exposed to ionizing radiation. The amount of radiation is greater than you would be exposed to during an ordinary X-ray because the CT scan collects more detailed information. The low-dose radiation used in CT scans has not been shown to cause long-term harm, but at much higher doses there may be a small increase in your potential cancer risk.

CT scans have many benefits that outweigh the minor potential risks. Doctors use the lowest possible dose of radiation to obtain the necessary medical information. Also, newer, faster machines and techniques emit less radiation than previously used. You can talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of your CT scan.

Harm to unborn babies

You should tell your doctor if you are pregnant. Although the radiation from a CT scan is unlikely to harm your baby, your doctor may recommend another type of examination, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging , to avoid exposing your baby to radiation . No adverse effects have been observed in humans with the low-dose radiation used in CT imaging.

Reactions to contrast material

In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you take a special dye called a contrast agent. This could be something you’re asked to drink before your CT scan, something given through a vein in your arm, or something inserted into your rectum. In rare cases, the contrast medium may cause medical problems or allergic reactions.

Most reactions are mild and result in only redness or itching. In rare cases, an allergic reaction can be serious, even life-threatening. If you have had a reaction to the contrast agent, you should inform your doctor.

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How to prepare for computed tomography?

Depending on which part of your body is being scanned, you may be asked to:

  • removing some or all of your clothing and putting on a hospital gown
  • Removing metal objects such as belts, jewelry, dentures, and eyeglasses that may affect image results
  • avoiding eating or drinking liquids for several hours before the scan

contrast material

Some CT scans require a special dye called a contrast agent to help highlight the areas of your body being examined. The contrast material blocks the x-rays and appears white in images. This, in turn, can help highlight blood vessels, intestines, or other structures.

Contrast may be given in the following ways:

  • By mouth: If your esophagus or stomach is being scanned, you may need to swallow a liquid containing contrast material. The taste of this drink may not be pleasant.
  • By Injection: Contrast material may be injected through a vein in your arm to help your gallbladder, urinary tract, liver, or blood vessels stand out in the images. You may feel a feeling of warmth or a metallic taste in your mouth during the injection.
  • By enema: A contrast agent may be placed in your rectum to help visualize your bowel. This procedure can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable.

Preparing your child for a scan

If your baby or toddler is undergoing a CT scan, the doctor may recommend a sedative to keep your child calm and still. Motion blurs images and can lead to erroneous results. You can ask your doctor how to prepare your child.

What happens during computed tomography?

In our country, computed tomography scanning is usually performed in well-equipped hospitals. CT scans are painless and only take a few minutes on newer machines. The entire process typically takes about 30 minutes.

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During the procedure

CT scanners are similar to a table with a ring-shaped device on its side. You’re reaching for a narrow, motorized table that slides through the opening into a tunnel. Straps and pillows can be used to help you hold your position. During the head scan, a special tool can be attached to the table to hold your head steady.

The detectors and X-ray tube spin around you as the table leads you to the scanner. Each rotation gives several cross-sectional views of your body. During this time, you may hear buzzing sounds.

A technologist in a separate room can see and hear you. You can communicate with the technician via the intercom. The technologist may ask you to hold your breath at certain points so as not to blur the images.

After the procedure

After the examination, you can return to your normal routine. If you have been given a contrast medium, you may receive special instructions. In some cases, you may be asked to wait a short time after the scan before leaving to make sure you feel well. After the scan, you will likely be advised to drink plenty of fluids to help your kidneys flush the contrast material from your body.

Results

CT scan images are stored as electronic data files and are usually viewed on a computer screen. A radiologist interprets these images and sends a report to your doctor.

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