CT Scan: Superior Images than X-Ray
Computerized tomography (CT or CAT scans) combines x-ray science with computer technology to produce more focused and informative images than traditional x-rays. CT scans produce clear pictures of bone, soft tissue, organs, intervertebral discs and the spinal cord. The images can be reproduced in black/gray/white tones or color. To enhance the image, a contrast medium (dye) can be injected into the patient during the test which highlights blood vessels and vascular tissue.
A CT scan provides better detail of bone than does MRI. The MRI provides better imaging of soft tissues including the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and intervertebral discs.
At Scoliosis Associates we use CT scans in only select cases in which an MRI can not be performed because the patient has a pacemaker or other metal implanted device or to better diagnose and evaluate complex spinal deformities such as congenital scoliosis or kyphosis. Since CT scan utilizes x-rays with a greater dosage than standard X-ray, use of this tool is limited as much as possible and low-dose protocols can be utilized.
The CT machine resembles a huge donut. A padded movable table, on which the patient lies, slides in and out of the donut hole. A large movable ring inside the donut houses the x-ray and detector equipment. This ring spirals around the patient during the test to create specific “slices” or pictures of anatomy.
How it Works
During the scan a series of x-rays are directed at specific angles through the body part being examined. A detector on the opposite side transmits the scan details to a computer, which analyzes the data and renders cross-sectional images of that body part. The cross-sectional images or “slices” are called tomograms. Additional images generated include sagittal (side view) and coronal (frontal) views and 3-D images that are helpful for surgeons such as
Dr. Lonner to prepare for operations on complex spinal deformities. The images can be displayed on a monitor (PAC system), stored as computer files or printed on ordinary x-ray film.
What to Expect
A CT Scan requires no special physical preparation. The patient does not need to restrict food or fluids prior to the test, unless a contrast medium (dye) will be used. If a contrast agent is to be used, the patient will be given individualized pre-test instructions.
The patient will be asked to remove jewelry or other metal objects and change into a medical gown. The patient is positioned on the CT table and gently strapped into place to restrict movement. The patient is covered with a blanket (if cold) and the table is slid into the opening of the scanner. It is important that the patient remain as still as possible during the scan.
Patients who are claustrophobic may be given a mild sedative. Often, patients are offered a headset to listen to music as the scanner makes noise during rotation.
Adjacent to the room in which the CT scanner is located is the technician’s area. The technician is able to see and communicate with the patient through a large window during the entire procedure. The test takes about 30 to 60 minutes.
We understand that many patients are nervous when preparing for a CT scan. Our team of experts will do all that we can to make you comfortable and relaxed during this painless test.