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CT Scan: The What and Why

Last updated 7 years ago

CT scans (computed tomography), also called computed axial tomography (CAT), is an advanced type of x-ray that captures multiple images from hundreds of angles and then those images are compiled by a computer to make cross-section pictures, like “slices” of various parts of the body, including soft tissue, bones, and blood vessels.

CT scans can “see” things that traditional x-ray machines cannot.  An x-ray machine essentially shines light through your body and areas that are denser allow less light to pass through, allowing the radiologist to see parts of the body. 

  • However, a smaller part of the body that the radiologist might wish to visualize, could be “hiding” behind another larger part, obscuring the body part the radiologist wishes to see. 
  • On the other hand, a CT scanner takes pictures from hundreds of angles, allowing the radiologist to see what otherwise might not be visible.

Sometimes the radiologist may use contrasting agents, “dyes” used to highlight a specific organ or tissue during the scan.  CT scans are considered safe. 

  • Although CT scans use x-rays, the benefits outweigh the risks associated with x-rays in most circumstances. 
  • Similarly, the risks of contrasting agents are outweighed by the benefits of early and accurate diagnosis.

A CT scanner looks like a large, vertical square with a circular hole through the center.  Inside the opening is a flat “bed” on which the patient will lay during the procedure.  The technician for the imaging procedure can position the “bed.”  The CT scanner itself is a rotating frame with an x-ray tube on one side and a detector on the other.  Each rotation of the scanner takes approximately 1,000 “profiles,” and those images will be combined to make one image “slice” of the patient.


Tower Radiology offers CT/CAT scans, as well as MRIs and PET scans, and we have radiologists that practice several sub-specialties.  Our website also offers links to a multitude of other sites that are resources for our patients.  Please contact us today to schedule your appointment or to ask us a question.



The materials available at this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing medical advice. You should contact your doctor to obtain advice with respect to any particular medical issue or problem. Use and access to this website or any of the links contained within the site do not create a doctor-client relationship. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the medical office or any individual doctor or physician.


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