Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010
It can be hard to find and fix a problem if you can’t see it clearly.
Fortunately, when it comes to possible problems inside the body, doctors use some advanced tools to focus on exactly what they need to see. And one of the cutting-edge diagnostic tools they use is the 64-slice computed tomography (CT) scanner.
CT scans are noninvasive, painless and fast. The scanners use special X-ray equipment to take multiple pictures – or slices – of internal structures, such as organs, bones and blood vessels. A computer program then combines all of these slices into detailed, cross-sectional views.
Compared to the previous generations of CT scanners, 64-slice machines provide much more information. Their thinner slices are recorded more quickly, leading to images with even more detail.
Among other things, images from these advanced CT scanners allow cardiologists to gauge the buildup of dangerous plaque in the arteries without the need for an invasive coronary angiogram. A 64-slice CT scan can also quickly and accurately show whether or not someone who is experiencing chest pain is having a heart attack.
CT scans are also used:
- To study all types of tissues in the chest and abdomen.
- To find cancers, such as those in the lungs, liver and pancreas.
- To detect spinal problems and other skeletal injuries, since even the smallest bones and nearby tissues can be seen.
- To locate vascular diseases that can lead to stroke or kidney failure.
Your doctor might order a CT exam for any number of reasons. For example, it might be used to help guide a biopsy, to plan a surgical procedure or to measure bone density. A CT scan can also quickly spot injuries to internal organs after an accident or more precisely target radiation treatments.
If you go in for a CT scan, you’ll see a large machine with a hole or tunnel in the center. You’ll lie very still on a table, which will then slide into the opening.
As you move into the machine, several invisible X-ray beams and X-ray detectors rotate around the table, quickly making the needed images. Depending on what images are needed, the test is often over in five to 30 minutes.
For some scans, a contrast material or dye is needed to make the area of the body being studied show up more clearly. This material may be swallowed, injected or given as an enema, depending on the test.
Barton’s Medical Imaging department offers patients CT scan shields that prevent up to 50 percent of radiation for eyes, breasts and thyroid. No other medical facility in the region offers the CT shield protection that Barton Memorial Hospital offers. Call 530-543-5850 for more information about lower-radiation CT scans at Barton Memorial Hospital.