CDI Miami | Monday March 31, 2014

The Role of CT Scans in Diagnostic Imaging

A computed tomography scan—otherwise known as a CT scan—combines a series of X-ray images taken from many different angles and computer processing to create cross-sectional images of the bones and soft tissues inside a body. The resulting image can be compared to a slice of bread. Each slice can be viewed individually from the whole “loaf” to get a better visualization of the body. CT scan images can provide much more information than plain X-rays.

The CT scanner was originally created for taking detailed pictures of the brain. Now it is much more advanced and is used for taking pictures of virtually any part of the body. Some of the most common uses of CT imaging include detecting different types of cancer. CTs are also used for the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of a number of vascular diseases, which may ultimately lead to stroke, kidney failure, or blood clots in the lungs. It is a useful tool for helping to prevent these problems from happening.

A CT scan can also be used to help diagnose muscle and bone disorders, such as bone tumors or fractures; pinpoint the location of a tumor or blood clot; guide procedures such as surgeries and biopsies; detect and monitor diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, or lung disease; and detect internal injuries and internal bleeding. CTs are also used for diagnosing and analyzing many spinal problems and skeletal injuries. This scanner is particularly good at detecting internal bleeding, especially in the brain; brain tumors and brain damage.

Although CT scans do have a higher radiation level than normal X-rays, doctors use the lowest dose of radiation whenever possible. Plus, newer techniques and machines may have lower exposure levels. CT scans are painless and typically only take a few minutes to complete.

CT scanners work by beam, receptor, rotation, computer, and image techniques. A CT is performed by focusing a narrow beam of X-ray across one layer or “slice” of the body. The X-ray’s energy is absorbed by structures of different density. Receptors located opposite the X-ray tube detect the number of X-rays remaining. The X-ray tube rotates slowly in a full body scan. Thousands of readings are taken this way and are recorded. The computer analyzes the receptor’s readings and calculates X-ray absorption at thousands of different points. The calculations are converted into a screen image. The image can then be studied by radiologists to determine if more tests are needed.

CT scans are a valuable diagnostic tool used to detect some conditions that conventional X-rays cannot, since CT scans show a “3-D” view of the section of the body being studied. CT scans are also useful for monitoring a patient’s progress during or after treatment.

At the Center for Diagnostic Imaging, radiologists use CT scan, CTA scan, and PET CT scan methods as preferred tools for preventative and diagnostic purposes. All radiologists are board-certified.