A computerized tomography (CT) scan “combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angels and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images, or slices, of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside the body.” Doctors typically prefer a CT scan over an X-ray if they’re looking into internal injuries because CT scans are more detailed than an X-ray. CT scans are similar to MRIs, but the main difference between the two is how the image is obtained. With CT scans, X-ray technology is used. With MRIs, radio waves and magnets are used. CT scans are also obtained a bit quicker than MRIs. CT scans take about 5-7 minutes, whereas MRIs can take up to 30 minutes.
CT scans are used for a variety of purposes:
- To diagnose things like bone tumors or fractures
- To discover the location of a specific tumor, infection site, or a blood clot
- To detect and keep track of diseases and conditions like cancer, liver masses, or heart disease
- To explore internal injuries or trauma
- To aid in performing procedures like a biopsy or radiation therapy
- To monitor the progress of treatments for cancer or other diseases
Similar to an MRI machine, you lay on a table and are glided into the machine. If you’re doing a head CT scan, it’s common to have a special cradle around your head to ensure your head stays still. You’re able to communicate with the doctor through an intercom. There’s no pain. The only thing you may find unusual is the slight noises from the machine.