What is a CT scan? | Dr. Andrew Cash, MD Las Vegas, Nevada

By Brooke Strickland and Andrew Cash, MD

A CT scan (also known as a CAT scan) stands for a Computed Tomography scan.  It is a type of x-ray method that combines many x-ray images with assistance from a computer to generate cross dimensional views of organs and other internal parts of the body.  It is far more advanced than a regular x-ray and can accurately find abnormalities in specific parts of the body. CT scans are painless, are generally a very low-risk procedure, and the amount of radiation exposure received is very minimal.  Many times iodine-contrasting materials is injected in the area being x-rayed in order to help make specific parts of the body (such as arteries, veins, or kidneys) more clearly visible on the scan.  They can also be used to examine parts of the head or back during traumatic injuries, and can help diagnose tumors or certain infections.   Further, CT scans are commonly used to help measure bone density in the spine.

What should you expect during a CT scan?

You may be asked to avoid eating food, especially if iodine material will be used. Fluids may also be restricted for a certain time frame in order to get the most accurate pictures available.  Patients are placed on a movable table that will move to place you in the center of a dome-shaped machine.  You will be asked to hold very still in order to get the clearest pictures possible.  CT scans can be anywhere from a half hour to an hour and a half.

CT scans are common and have vastly improved patient care due to their ability to provide a clear, accurate look into the body.  This technology is a very non-invasive way to diagnose serious medical conditions and can help patients living with various medical conditions as well as those who have undergone recent trauma to the body.

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