CT Scan (General)

(Computed Tomography Scan; Computed Axial Tomography; CAT Scan)

Definition

A CT scan uses x-ray technology to take multiple views of the inside of the body. Compared to regular x-rays, a CT scan can take clearer and more detailed images of organs, bone, soft tissue, blood vessels, and other parts of the body.
CT Scan of the Head
Breast self-exam, step 5
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for test

Some of the primary uses for CT scans include:
  • Looking for bleeding inside the body, especially the in the skull.
  • Studying the chest and abdomen
  • Determining the size and location of a tumor
  • Diagnosing skeletal problems
  • Diagnosing blood vessel diseases
  • Planning radiation treatments for cancer
  • Guiding biopsies and other tests
  • Planning surgery
  • Identifying injuries from trauma

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a CT scan, your doctor will review a list of possible complications. These may include:
  • Allergic reaction to contrast material
  • Damage to the kidney from contrast material
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
  • Allergies (if you are given a contrast dye during the test)
  • Kidney problems (if you are given a contrast dye during the test)
You are exposed to some radiation during a CT scan. Radiation exposure can increase your lifetime risk of cancer. This risk increases the more times you are exposed to radiation. Radiation exposure is more concerning for pregnant women and children. CT scans are usually not recommended for pregnant women.Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the test.

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