Since their introduction in the 1970s, CAT scans, also known as CTs, have revolutionized the medical world. This non-invasive x-ray test is used in hospitals and outpatient facilities all over the world. CAT scans offer medical professionals deeper insight into their patients’ conditions with the ability to capture difficult angles inside the human body.
How Does a CAT Scan Work?
CAT stands for computerized axial tomography, whereas CT is simply computerized tomography. A CAT scan is a test that uses a computer and a number of x-ray images from different angles to produce cross-sectional body images.
A regular x-ray only allows you to look through the body. The CT shows doctors what’s going on from the inside of the body and allows them to pinpoint specific areas of interest.
Historically, the only way to do this was to actually go into the body through surgery. In fact, this would have been the only option for accurately diagnosing a disease or condition, other than performing an autopsy. Though radiation is used during the procedure, it is considered to be safe and low-risk.
What Are CAT Scans Used For?
Generally, a CAT Scan is used for further research into an irregularity noticed during a previous x-ray or ultrasound. CTs are best for evaluating soft tissues. They are able to show masses, or areas of excessive bleeding. Someone with brain cancer, for example, may get a brain CT to see if the cancer is spreading. The doctor can then decide on the best course of action for his patient.
Head CTs may also be ordered if a patient suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or shows signs of dizziness or pain. A spine CT is often used to detect herniated discs or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). Other common CAT scans include those for the neck, pelvis and chest. They help to detect enlarged lymph nodes, fractures, and other abnormalities.