CDI Miami | Tuesday September 1, 2015

Better Medical Imaging with CT Scans


CT Scans produce powerful, high resolution images that can accurately detect tumors, hemorrhages, and bone trauma, among other maladies. CT scans (computed tomography), are great at providing more detailed information of the body by scanning in cross-sections. These slices are called tomographic images and contain more detailed information than conventional x-rays. These slices are then digitally “stacked” together to form a three-dimensional image of the patient that allows for easier identification and location of basic structures as well as possible tumors or abnormalities.

How does a CT Scan Work?

A CT Scanner uses a motorized x-ray source that rotates around the circular opening of a donut-shaped structure called a gantry. During a CT scan, the patient lies on a bed that slowly moves through the gantry while the x-ray tube rotates around the patient, shooting narrow beams of x-rays through the body. Instead of film, CT scanners use special digital x-ray detectors, which are located directly opposite the x-ray source. As the x-rays leave the patient, they are picked up by the detectors and transmitted to a computer.

When would I get a CT scan?

In addition to being able to diagnose bone injuries or lesions, CT scans can also detect irregularities in the heart. CT scans can image bone fractures, joints, cartilage, or tendons since it usually produces more detail than would be possible with a conventional x-ray.

What are the Risks?

Although all x-rays produce radiation, it is in such small amounts that the risks are almost non-existent. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration, “… biological effects [of radiation] can range from an increased lifetime risk of cancer to possible allergic reactions or kidney failure due to contrast agents. Under some rare circumstances of prolonged, high-dose exposure, x-rays can cause adverse health effects such as skin reddening (erythema), skin tissue injury, hair loss, cataracts, or birth defects (if scanning conducted during pregnancy).