CT scan (Computer Tomography) images allow the doctor to look at the inside of the body just as one would look at the inside of a loaf of bread by slicing it. This type of special X-ray, in a sense, takes “pictures” of slices of the body so doctors can look right at the area of interest. CT scans are frequently used to evaluate the brain, neck, spine, chest, abdomen, pelvis, and sinuses.
CT is noninvasive, safe, and well-tolerated. It provides a highly detailed look at many different parts of the body.
People often have CT scans to further evaluate an abnormality seen on another test such as an X-ray or an ultrasound. They may also have a CT to check for specific symptoms such as pain or dizziness. People with cancer may have a CT to evaluate the spread of disease. A head or brain CT is used to evaluate the various structures of the brain to look for a mass, stroke, area of bleeding, or blood vessel abnormality. It is also sometimes used to look at the skull. A neck CT checks the soft tissues of the neck and is frequently used to study a lump or mass in the neck or to look for enlarged lymph nodes or glands. CT of the chest is frequently used to further study an abnormality on a plain chest X-ray. It is also often used to look for enlarged lymph nodes. Abdominal and pelvic CT looks at the abdominal and pelvic organs (such as the liver, spleen, kidneys, pancreas, and adrenal glands) and the gastrointestinal tract. These studies are often ordered to check for a cause of pain and sometimes to follow up on an abnormality seen on another test such as an ultrasound. A sinus CT exam is used to both diagnose sinus disease and to detect a narrowing or obstruction in the sinus drainage pathway. A spine CT test is most commonly used to detect a herniated disc or narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) in people with neck, arm, back, and/or leg pain. It is also used to detect a fracture or break in the spine.