CT (Computed Axial Tomography): what it is used for

Computed Axial Tomography (CT) is an X-ray examination that allows a virtual image of a patient’s internal organs to be displayed

CT is a relatively recent technique, having been first introduced in 1973, and produces X-ray images of certain sections of the body along the axial plane.

Recently, it is simply called CT because sections can also be taken in the sagittal and frontal plane.

Although slightly invasive, CT is now considered a routine examination.

What does CT scan consist of

During the CT scan, the patient is placed on a plane and secured with straps that ensure the immobility necessary for the examination; then an X-ray tube rotates around him, emitting thin beams of X-rays that, as they pass through the patient’s body, are intercepted by sensors that measure their intensity (which varies depending on the density of the tissue encountered) and send the data to a computer where they are collected and processed.

The computer is then able to reconstruct and display the virtual image of the internal organs on a monitor

More sophisticated equipment allows digital reconstruction in different planes or the creation of three-dimensional models.

CT scans can be performed with the introduction (by intravenous injection) of a contrast medium that allows better visualisation of highly vascularised tissues (e.g. in the diagnosis of tumours).

The examination lasts between 20 and 40 minutes and allows a report to be made the day after it is performed.

Why and when a CT scan is used

The CT scan allows accurate diagnosis of important lesions such as those of the nervous system, abdominal organs, and the musculoskeletal system.

It is indicated in all situations where trauma, haemorrhage, injury, ischaemia or tumours are suspected.

Compared to other radiological examinations, CT has certain advantages

  • it is minimally invasive
  • it is able to highlight anatomical details and relationships between structures well;
  • it is able to define the density of internal organs and define the nature of lesions.

Chest CT

Chest CT is performed to better analyse situations already detected by chest X-ray and is used to diagnose thoracic lesions.

Abdominal CT scan

The abdominal CT scan is performed to investigate situations (mainly liver, spleen, pancreas and kidney lesions) already revealed by abdominal ultrasound.

It allows the differential diagnosis of inflammations, cysts, angiomas, abscesses or tumours (even small ones). It cannot be performed during pregnancy.

Neurological CT scan

The neurological CT scan is indicated in emergency situations and in cases of suspected head trauma, haemorrhages and neurological lesions where it is not possible or inadvisable to perform Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), a non-invasive examination that allows better tissue resolution.

Bone scan

Bone CT scans are used to diagnose injuries (especially to the meniscus and articular cartilage), inflammation or degenerative osteoarticular conditions, disc pathologies (protrusion, hernia) and bone tumours.

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