Computed Tomography (CT), also known simply as a scanner (for the device used to perform it), is a diagnostic test that through the use of X-rays obtains multiple images of the interior of the body, centered in the organ or area of the body to be analyzed.
Each of these images, which are taken very quickly from many different angles, is a 2-dimensional cut of the analyzed area, which through computer processing also allow the reconstruction of three-dimensional images of said area.
The scanner used for computed tomography is a large machine in the shape of a large ring through which the stretcher passes where the patient must lie down. The scanner contains detectors throughout its circumference, so that while radiation is emitted, they capture images from different angles of the area of the body to be explored.
In general, to perform the computed tomography, a contrast is administered to the patient that serves to highlight the organs and/or blood vessels to be studied in the images, facilitating the interpretation of the results. Said contrast is usually administered intravenously in most cases, although it can sometimes be administered orally (as is the case with abdominal CT), or rarely by other routes or both.
Uses of computed tomography
By means of computed tomography, almost all the internal organs of the body can be studied from the head to the extremities, accurately showing the bones, soft tissues, heart and blood vessels. In general, CT is performed on one or more anatomical regions or areas of the body.
The performance of a CT or computed tomography is requested in many circumstances, so that among the most frequent reasons are the following:
- In the emergency services it is very useful to assess the damage suffered by the patient after a blow or trauma (for example, after suffering an accident) due to its high speed to scan the entire body, thus allowing the fast and effective detection of hemorrhages, injuries to internal organs, fractures and other problems in just a matter of seconds or a few minutes, thus helping to save the patient’s life and improve their prognosis.
- In oncology it is used routinely as a diagnostic system to locate tumors and assess their extension, also checking for metastases. In this way, it is used in the study of all types of cancers: in the cranial area, breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer… In addition, the three-dimensional images obtained by computed tomography are essential for the proper planning of radiotherapy sessions in cancer treatment.
- To study pathologies of the spinal cord or spinal column.
- For the diagnosis of some infections.
- To guide some interventions, such as a biopsy of an area of the body or the drainage of abscesses.
- To detect and assess possible brain injuries, whether due to head injuries, stroke, or brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, etc.
- To find or rule out certain diseases.
- To assess the state of the bones.
- To see obstructions or dilations in veins or arteries, allowing the effective evaluation of acute and chronic diseases of the heart and blood vessels. It also allows to check for emboli or thrombi.
Advantages and disadvantages of computed tomography
As already mentioned, one of the main advantages is that it is a very quick test to perform, being especially useful in emergencies. Today it can even provide radiological images in real time, so it can be used to guide a variety of procedures, such as complex biopsy sampling.
In addition, with current scanners the great sharpness of the images allows seeing even the smallest of details in bones, soft tissues and blood vessels at the same time, so that in many cases the images of the computed tomography are sufficient for diagnosis, avoiding the need for other tests.
Another advantage is that, unlike MRI, computed tomography can be performed even in patients who have implanted devices such as pacemakers, or other prostheses or metal objects in the body. CT is also less sensitive to movement than MRI, so with modern equipment it is possible to perform high-quality cardiac studies even with the movement of the heart.
However, computed tomography also has some drawbacks. First, some patients may be allergic to the contrast used to perform this test.
On the other hand, as it is a test that uses X-rays, it is generally not performed on pregnant women, except in emergency situations where it is absolutely necessary. Similarly, when the patient is a child, this test is only performed when it is strictly necessary for an accurate diagnosis, since children have a greater sensitivity to radiation.
Computed Tomography and other diagnostic tests at Vithas Xanit Internacional
Whether you need to see a specialist to diagnose a specific problem or just a general health check, remember that at Vithas Xanit Internacional you will find the best specialists who, with the latest technology for imaging diagnosis, including computed tomography, allow us to offer you the most accurate diagnoses. Contact us for more information or make an appointment.