When most people get hurt, injured, or become sick, they go to the doctor to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it. While it’s possible that your doctor might know what’s going on simply by hearing your symptoms, in many cases they’ll need the assistance of diagnostic imaging to get a better idea of what’s going on in your body and causing your symptoms.
Diagnostic imaging is incredibly valuable in diagnosis because it allows doctors to internally examine the affected area of your body. Of course, there are many different types of diagnostic imaging exams, but one of the most common and effective diagnostic imaging procedures are CT scans.
CT scans use x-ray beams to provide doctors with images of inside the patient’s body. The patient lays down while an arc sends thousands of x-ray beams through the body, collecting them on the other end of the arc in order to compare the strength between the beams. By doing this, the doctor can gather a very detailed image of inside the body.
Many people have heard of CT scans, but not everyone has gotten one and not everyone knows why someone might need to get one. So, if you’ve ever wondered, “Do I need a CT scan?” and didn’t know the answer, here are 9 reasons you might need one:
1. You cannot undergo an MRI for some reason.
Not all imaging procedures are the same, and sometimes there are factors that limit the type of imaging exams a patient is able to undergo. MRI and CT scans are relatively similar, but there are a few factors that set them apart and a few reasons why doctors may opt for one procedure over another for a particular patient.
CT scans are much less sensitive to movement and take less time to perform than MRIs, so if you have an injury that doctor’s need to look at that prevents you from laying still or comfortably for 30-60 minutes, it might be better to get a CT scan. This can also be true if you have an implanted medical device of any kind, as that prohibits you from undergoing an MRI.
2. You need to have your blood vessels examined.
Whether it is to check for a blockage or some other issue, CT scans allow doctors the ability to examine your blood vessels without needing to perform exploratory surgery or a surgical biopsy. This can play a major role for people who might be needing the diagnosis or treatment of things such as vascular diseases.
3. You need to examine a part of the body with very small bone components.
Since CT scans can image bones in a very clear manner, CT scans prove to be extremely valuable to doctors who are examining patients for bone injuries in places like their hands and their feet, as well as in their spinal region. These areas might not be as visible with diagnostic imaging methods like x-rays.
4. Your injury involves soft tissue damage.
Unlike methods such as traditional x-rays, CT scans can provide very clear images of the soft tissue around skeletal structures in your body while also providing images of the bones. So, in the case that someone is suffering from soft tissue damage to a bone, the doctor can accurately diagnose the injury and provide the patient with a better recovery plan based on CT images.
5. You have a tumor that doctors are performing surgery on.
CT scans are often utilized to help guide surgeons as they perform things like biopsies. Because they allow the doctor to confirm the presence of a tumor while detailing and measuring its size and exact location, CT scans are very useful in helping surgeons. CT scans can also help doctors determine to what extent the tumor has become involved with surrounding tissue.
6. You're undergoing some form of cancer treatment.
CT scans help doctors plan and administer radiation treatments for patients with cancerous tumors since they provide such accurate detail in the images, especially when imaging soft tissue. CT scans also play a large role in helping doctors monitor the patient’s response to chemotherapy, since they can show both whether cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent.
7. You need to examine your bones to check for various skeletal diseases.
In addition to providing doctors images of soft tissue, organs, and bone injuries, CT scans also aid doctors with the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis as well as other similar diseases. CT scans are incredibly useful in diagnosis osteoporosis as they can measure the bone mineral density of patients.
8. You need to have your brain examined.
Of course, there are many reasons as to why doctors might need to examine the internal situation of a patient’s head, but CT scans help doctors by providing them with detailed images of the brain. So, whether it’s a blunt trauma injury or a tissue-related disease that your doctor suspects you may be suffering from, doctors can use CT scans to better diagnose and treat issues in the brain.
9. You were just injured in a severe accident of some sort.
Since they are extremely quick and highly effective, CT scans are crucial in helping doctors detect internal injuries and are oftentimes the imaging procedure of choice in emergency situations, where speed is often needed in order to help the patient in time to save their life. So, patients who are hurt after something like a car accident might need a CT scan to find and treat internal injuries quickly.
At the end of the day, there are endless reasons why you might need a CT scan. However, knowing some situations that typically require a CT scan can help someone understand when doctors might need to use CT scans to examine patients and their injuries. Since CT scans can give doctors clear images of bones, soft tissues, muscles, organs, large blood vessels, the brain, and nerves, CT scans are a diverse and useful tool in a number of diagnostic situations.
If you’re in the Bay area and your doctor has referred you for a CT scan, visit one of our BICRAD locations for your appointment!