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What is a computerized tomography (CT) scan?

Sometimes called a CAT scan, CT is a special type of cross sectional x-ray generated by a computer. The result is a more detailed image than a conventional x-ray.

A computed tomography (CT) scan is taken by a special x-ray machine. Rather than sending one wide x-ray beam through your body, this machine sends out many beams from many angles. A computer uses the results to generate detailed, cross-sectional pictures of your body. The CT scan provides a much clearer picture of your head than a regular x-ray. The test is painless and can help identify tumors, bleeding, areas of damaged brain tissue, and even sinus infections. It takes approximately 10 minutes. In some cases, a contrast dye is administered intravenously to define the brain structures more clearly. However, these scans expose you to far more radiation than a conventional x-ray and should be avoided when possible.

A "CT scan" is the term used to describe a radiologic test known as "computerized tomography." Computed tomography is a noninvasive diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs. CT scans are more detailed than standard x-rays.

In standard x-rays, a beam of energy is aimed at the body part being studied. A plate behind the body part captures the variations of the energy beam after it passes through skin, bone, muscle and other tissue. While much information can be obtained from a standard x-ray, a lot of detail about internal organs and other structures is not available.

In computed tomography, the x-ray beam moves in a circle around the body. This allows many different views of the same organ or structure. The x-ray information is sent to a computer that interprets the x-ray data and displays it in a two-dimensional (2D) form on a monitor.

CT scans may be done with or without "contrast." Contrast refers to a substance taken by mouth or injected into an intravenous (IV) line that causes the particular organ or tissue under study to be seen more clearly. Contrast examinations may require you to fast for a certain period of time before the procedure. Your physician will notify you of this prior to the procedure.

A CT scan is a medical imaging method employed to generate a three-dimensional image of the inside of an object from a large series of two-dimensional x-ray images taken around a single axis of rotation.

Dr. Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgeon

A computed axial tomography scan (CAT scan or just CT scan) is a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

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A computed tomography (CT) scan is a scan that uses x-rays to take detailed cross-sectional images of the body, including the arteries and beating heart. A contrast dye is injected into a vein. As this dye moves through the heart and blood vessels, the CT scan will take detailed pictures. These pictures can then be used to create a 3-D reconstruction of the heart and major blood vessels. Your doctor can use these images to identify problems with the heart or blood vessels and develop a treatment plan if necessary.

A computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan is a noninvasive imaging test in which computers combine special x-ray images to produce cross-sectional images of internal organs, bone, soft tissue and blood vessels.

Computed tomography (CT) is a diagnostic procedure that uses special x-ray equipment to obtain cross-sectional pictures of the body. The CT computer displays these pictures as detailed images of organs, bones, and other tissues. This procedure is also called CT scanning, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography (CAT).

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Abdul J. Tajik, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Computed tomography (CT) is a painless, noninvasive test that can be done to further assess the heart and blood vessels. It is similar to a chest X-ray, but shows the heart and blood vessels in greater detail. Contrast dye is injected into an intravenous (IV) line to further highlight areas of concern in the chest. You lie on a small, narrow table and are moved through a doughnut-shaped hole, where the pictures are obtained. The test is effective in diagnosing problems, but does expose you to radiation.

A computerized tomography (CT) scan, also called a computed tomography or CAT scan, is a scan that takes very detailed pictures of the inside of the body.

If a person feels unwell or has pain, doctors might suggest having a CT scan to find out what the problem is. Then a radiologist looks at the CT images and talks to the doctor to see what’s going on inside the person, and if there are any problems. Once they know the problem, they can start fixing it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.