CT (Computed Tomography)

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). Computed tomography scans do not cause any pain. CT scans take from 15 minutes to 20 minutes to complete.

CT imaging is particularly useful because it can show several types of tissue-lung, bone, soft tissue, and blood vessels-with great clarity. Using specialized equipment and expertise to create and interpret CT scans of the body, radiologists can more easily diagnose problems such as cancers, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, trauma, and musculoskeletal disorders. CT of the body is a patient-friendly exam that involves little radiation exposure.

Because it provides detailed, cross-sectional views of all types of tissue, CT is one of the best tools for studying the chest and abdomen. It is often the preferred method for diagnosing many different cancers, including lung, liver, and pancreatic cancer, since the image allows a physician to confirm the presence of a tumor and to measure its size, precise location, and the extent of the tumor’s involvement with other nearby tissue. CT examinations are often used to plan and properly administer radiation treatments for tumors, to guide biopsies and other minimally invasive procedures, and to plan surgery and determine surgical resectability. CT can clearly show even very small bones, as well as surrounding tissues such as muscle and blood vessels. This makes it invaluable in diagnosing and treating spinal problems and injuries to the hands, feet, and other skeletal structures. CT images can also be used to measure bone mineral density for the detection of osteoporosis. In cases of trauma, CT can quickly identify injuries to the liver, spleen, kidneys, or other internal organs. Many dedicated shock-trauma centers have a CT scanner in the emergency room. CT can also play a significant role in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of vascular diseases that can lead to stroke, kidney failure, or even death.

Computed tomography is used in several ways:

To detect or confirm the presence of a tumor;

To provide information about the size and location of the tumor and whether it has spread;

To guide a biopsy (the removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope);

To help plan radiation therapy or surgery;

To determine whether the cancer is responding to treatment.

What are the benefits of CT?

Unlike other imaging methods, CT scanning offers detailed views of many types of tissue, including the lungs, bones, soft tissues, and blood vessels.

CT scanning is painless, noninvasive, and accurate.

CT examinations are fast and simple. For example, in trauma cases, they can reveal internal injuries and bleeding quickly enough to help save lives.

Diagnosis made with the assistance of CT can eliminate the need for invasive exploratory surgery and surgical biopsy.

CT scanning can identify both normal and abnormal structures, making it a useful tool to guide radiotherapy, needle biopsies, and other minimally invasive procedures.

CT has been shown to be a cost-effective imaging tool for a wide range of clinical problems.