Computerized Tomography (CT)

What is CT?
CT Scan | San Fernando Valley Imaging

Computerized tomography (CT) is an advanced type of X-ray exam that takes multiple pictures of internal body parts and, using advanced processing software, combines them to create cross-sectional images of internal body structures, tissues and organs. Each image shows internal body parts in a thin slice and these images can be used to create three-dimensional representations of internal body parts, like a heart or a lung.

How is CT Used?

CT has a wide range of applications in diagnostic imaging. The high-resolution images produced by CT make it a valuable imaging option when X-ray images would not be detailed enough. CT can be used to image the head, lungs, heart, blood vessels, abdomen and limbs.

CT is often used to help diagnose traumatic injuries and bone disorders, look for tumors, guide interventional procedures and monitor existing conditions.

Some commonly performed types of CT include:

  • Chest, or thorax, CT to investigate potential problems with the lungs, heart or lungs, which may include lung cancer, pulmonary embolism and aneurysm.
  • Abdominal CT to look for cysts, abscesses, infection, tumors, bleeding and inflammation, among other conditions.
  • Urinary tract CT, or CT urogram, to look for conditions affecting the kidneys, ureters and bladder.

Other commonly performed types of CT include CT of the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, adrenal glands and pelvis.

Prepare

Easy Come, Easy Go

Click here to find out how to get ready for any type of CT exam, so that your visit is as efficient as possible.

Prepare

What happens during a CT?

A CT scan will most likely be performed by a radiologic technician and the results will be read by a radiologist, who will report findings to you and your physician. You will be positioned on an examination table affixed to the CT scanner during the procedure.  The scanner will move around your body, taking pictures as it progresses. The scan only takes several minutes. The exam is painless, although you will be required to remain still for its duration. You may be required to receive an injectable contrast dye, depending on your specific type of exam.

Preparation instructions will vary on a case-by-case basis, but there are some general steps you can take to prepare for a CT scan:

  • Inform your physician if you are or might be pregnant, have any allergies or have any exiting health conditions.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, as you may be required to change into hospital gown.
  • Do not eat prior to your exam as indicated by your physician.

What are my CT scan options?

We perform a number of different CT exams, as part of our full range of diagnostic imaging services. Your doctor will advise you on which type of CT is appropriate for you. The list below provides information on your particular scan.

This is an accurate and noninvasive imaging modality used to assess and evaluate certain gastrointestinal problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn’s Disease), infectious enteritis, lymphoma or tuberculosis. It also can be used in patients with occult gastrointestinal bleeding to determine if a small bowel polyp is causing the bleeding. Before a CTE scan, you will drink approximately one liter of a water-like solution over the course of an hour and receive an intravenous injection of contrast medium to help the radiologist better evaluate your small and large bowel. It is otherwise similar to the standard CT discussed on this page.
New research from the National Cancer Institute shows CT lung screening reduces lung cancer deaths by 20%. Lung cancer CT screening is one of the most accurate diagnostic tools for  finding lung cancer at an early stage, when it is most treatable. CT scans of the lung are able to detect small abnormalities in the lungs that could be the beginning stages of lung cancer. These indicators are often not visible on a routine chest X-ray. Since a CT lung screening offers the best opportunity for successful treatment of lung cancer before symptoms are noticed, more physicians are opting for lung cancer screening based on risk factors (like smoking and family history), rather than symptoms. Logistics are similar to the standard CT discussed on this page.
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure that allows a doctor to look inside the entire large intestine for things such as inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, and ulcers. It is most often used to look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum or to look for causes for unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or weight loss. Instead of a traditional colonoscopy, requiring sedation and insertion of a guided video camera into the rectum, the virtual colonoscopy at our facility is non-invasive and comfortable for the patient. A high-resolution CT scanner painlessly examines the colon and produces multi-dimensional views that can reveal the presence of even the smallest abnormalities. No pain medication, sedative or recovery is necessary.
Our advanced, ultra high-speed CT angiography technology pinpoints abnormalities in the coronary arteries (such as a blockage or plaque build-up), even in the absence of classic symptoms like pain, shortness of breath or numbness. Instead of a standard angiogram, which requires sedation, threading of a catheter, and pain management, a CT angiogram assembles a cross-sectional view of the heart and arteries in five minutes. It is non-invasive, painless, and accurate, with no recovery necessary for the patient. An opaque dye is injected to illuminate the arteries.
This procedure is done as part of a sophisticated high-speed CT exam of the heart called a CT Angiogram. During the scan, which takes just seconds, the equipment measures the amount of calcium present and calculates a score.  The lower the score, the lower the risk of a cardiac incident. (Calcium covers the plaque that builds up inside artery walls.) This test can assess coronary heart disease, which is often asymptomatic and is still the most common cause of death for Americans. If you have two or more of the following risk factors, discuss having this test with your doctor:

  • male over 45
  • high blood pressure
  • female over 55
  • high stress lifestyle
  • smoker or second hand exposure
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • family history of coronary artery disease
  • diabetes
A whole body scan can be appropriate for a high-risk patient with a history of heart disease, cancer, smoking, hypertension, or diabetes, or one who has been exposed to hazardous chemicals. The prime benefit of whole body scanning is the ability to locate and diagnose a disease process that can be effectively treated if found early, such as gall stones, degenerative and arthritic changes of the spine, kidney stones, abnormal lymph nodes and many other issues. Logistics are similar to the standard CT discussed on this page.
The high-resolution medical images in 3D show a remarkable real-life appearance of your internal organs. The technology is far advanced over traditional CT imaging and provides excellent diagnostic information. Whole body scanning, coronary artery calcium scoring, virtual colonoscopy, lung screening, heart scanning—these are the advanced 3D imaging procedures available to patients at our facilities.
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