Computed Tomography (CT)

What is computed tomography (CT)?

Computed tomography (CT) is a diagnostic imaging technique in which X-rays are taken from different angles and then processed using a special computer to create cross-sectional images of the head, spine, or other part of the body. CT scans are more detailed than standard X-rays.

In some cases, a contrast agent may be injected into a vein to make it easier to see internal structures. This procedure is called a CT angiography.

What is computed tomography (CT) used for?

A computed tomography scan may be used to diagnose or determine the cause of the following problems:

  • Brain tumor
  • Trauma
  • Hemorrhage (bleeding)
  • Vertigo (dizziness)
  • Headaches
  • Fainting
  • Deformities
  • Stroke
  • Buildup of fluid inside the skull (hydrocephalus)
  • Brain infection
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision problems
  • Muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling
  • Speaking difficulties
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Changes in thinking or behavior
  • Degenerative conditions

A CT angiogram may be used to diagnose cerebrovascular disorders, such as:

  • Blockages in blood vessels
  • Narrowing of blood vessels
  • Aneurysms
  • Other blood vessel abnormalities

CT imaging may also be used to guide procedures such as surgeries, radiation therapies, and biopsies.

Am I a good candidate for computed tomography (CT)?

You may be a good candidate for computed tomography if you are having symptoms of a neurological problem or have been involved in an accident. CT scans do expose you to radiation, more so than standard X-rays, so your doctor may recommend another imaging test if you have had several CT scans over time or if you are pregnant.

You may not be a good candidate for CT angiography if you have impaired kidney function or have had a previous allergic reaction to a contrast agent.

Medically Reviewed by Erin C. Prenger, DO on January 10, 2020