A CT scan (computerized tomography) is used for a wide range of purposes, but it is most commonly used to provide a quick diagnostic procedure for those who may have undergone some type of trauma, such as an auto accident that may have caused internal injuries. CT scans combine a group of X-ray images that are taken from different angles, which then uses computer processing to make slices (cross-sectional images) of the blood vessels, soft tissues, and bones inside of your body.
A CT scan image provides additional, more detailed information than a basic X-ray. CT scans may be used for a clearer “picture” on all parts of your body, and it can be used to diagnose an injury or a disease, as well as help with the plan for radiation treatment, surgery, or other types of medical treatment.
Who Needs a CT Scan?
This is similar to an MRI; however, but a CT image generally provides a more accurate image in a quicker time — which is extremely beneficial for those who have an internal injury or a condition that may prevent you from lying still for a long period of time. These scans are also used for those who need imaging but have metal implants. These scans are generally used for tumors, bone fractures, finding internal bleeding, and cancer monitoring.
What Information Does a CT Scan Provide?
A CT scan is like standard X-rays, but an X-ray can only aim a beam of radiation from one angle, while a CT image uses a thin beam to provide a series of pictures that are taken from different angles. The information provided is entered into a computer, which makes a black-and-white picture that shows a specified area of the body. There are a number of things that this scan can tell your doctor, including:
- Blockages in blood vessels or other potential problems within a blood vessel such as vascular disease, without having to do an invasive exploratory surgery or a surgical biopsy
- CT scans of the abdomen can provide detailed images of the organs, including your kidneys, liver, spleen, gallbladder, uterus, and ovaries. Your doctor may request an image of your abdomen to look for a mass in the abdomen, the cause of abdominal pain, kidney stones, intestinal inflammation, unexplained weight loss, or an obstruction in the large or small intestine.
- The bones in feet and hands are extremely small, which makes it difficult to identify a potential problem by using an X-ray only. A CT scan provides clearer images that may help with surgical repairs.
- This is typically the first step in the process of potential surgery on a tumor. A CT image allows your doctor and/or surgeon to identify the location and size of the tumor as well as whether or not the surrounding tissue is affected.
- These scans are instrumental in the diagnosis of cancer as well as developing a treatment plan. The image can help your doctor determine the effectiveness of chemotherapy because the images will show how much the cancer is spreading and how quickly and how much of the tumor the chemotherapy has targeted.
- A scan of your brain can provide images for evaluating head injuries, potential bleeding, brain tumors, severe and chronic headaches, stroke, and cause for persistent dizziness.
- Soft tissue can generally not be seen with a standard X-ray, so an image is used to give doctor a clearer look at the condition of soft tissue and bones.
- When there are suspected spinal issues, a CT scan allows doctors to measure bone density, diagnose the source of spinal pain, evaluate spinal fractures, and assess spine condition before and after a surgical procedure
How Much Do CT Scans Cost?
The cost varies depending on a variety of factors. But, the range is generally from $270 to $5000 or more, depending on your location, the facility providing the image, and things such as whether your insurance provider will be billed or you will pay in cash. The cost generally includes the technician fees and clinic or hospital overheads, which is why the cost varies from one location to the next.
In some situations, you may be able to save on the cost. For instance, if you must call to schedule the scan, consider contacting a few different locations to compare costs. Keep in mind that it is generally less expensive to have a scan in a facility that frequently provides them as opposed to one that only occasionally does these scans.
Can CT Scans be Taken as a Proactive Health Concern?
There have been no proven benefits for healthy people to have a scan. Although it may seem like a good idea to have a scan for finding unsuspected disease, as a means of preventive action or finding problems to begin treatment sooner, there is no scientific evidence that a scan will be beneficial. In many situations, a CT scan when used for proactive concerns, may show an inaccurate finding and/or may miss some conditions. A CT is generally used to provide a clearer picture of an identified or suspected issue.
Keep in mind that a CT scan is often described as a cross-section or a slice, but there is no cutting involved; the term is used to describe the group of sections being targeted for the picture. It’s important to alert your doctor if you have any allergies or have a sensitivity to seafood, iodine, or contrast dyes and be sure to let your doctor know if you are breastfeeding or if you may be pregnant.