What Is the Purpose of a CAT Scan?

Written by carole ann
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A CAT scan, computerised tomography or CAT scan, uses specialised X-ray equipment and computers to produce cross-sectional pictures of your internal organs, soft tissue, bones and blood vessels. These images, taken from different angles, provide more detail to the radiologist than normal X-rays, allowing him to provide an accurate diagnosis or pinpoint a specific area of disease.


A CAT scan is used to diagnose many conditions. It can provide important details about different types of cancer, such as liver, pancreatic and lung cancers. The location and size of a tumour can be evaluated through a CAT scan, according to Radiology Info. The Mayo Clinic indicates that with the aid of contract material injected into the patient's veins, the brain and blood vessels can be evaluated for disease or blockages. It is used in paediatrics to diagnose conditions such as lymphoma, congenital malformations and neuroblastoma (a malignant cancer of the nerve tissue that usually begins in childhood, according to MedicineNet).


For cancer patients, CAT scans are commonly used for staging and planning radiation treatments. Radiology Info indicates that they also serve to monitor the response of a tumour to chemotherapy. Periodic scans can show whether or not a specific treatment is working. Bone density may be measured with CAT scans in patients with osteoporosis. They may also be used to evaluate healing bones and other tissues.


CAT scans take a short time to complete and provide quick information regarding damage to organs such as the liver, heart, spleen, kidneys and bowel in the event of traumatic injuries, according to the Mayo Clinic. Prompt assessment of internal bleeding through a CAT scan can save an individual's life. In addition, practitioners can diagnose spinal and other skeletal injuries.


In planning for surgery, a doctor may order a CAT scan. Real-time CT images are often used to guide surgical procedure such as need aspirations, needle biopsies and draining abscesses. Follow-up CAT scans provide the doctor with results of certain surgeries, such as gastric bypass or an organ transplant, according to Radiology Info.


CAT scans are noninvasive, painless and accurate. In addition, they can be used for patients with any type of implanted medical device, whereas MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) cannot. After the scan, there is no radiation left in the body. There are not usually any immediate side effects. In some cases, a patient may have an allergic reaction to injected contrast material, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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