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CT scans are more powerful than an X-ray alone because they combine X-rays with computer technology. The result is a series of cross-sectional images that look like "slices" of your body.
During a CT scan, you lay down on a table, which then slides you into a cylinder-like scanner. The X-ray tube slowly rotates around you, taking multiple images, which are made cross-sectional by a complex computer. This painless procedure lets your doctor see the size, shape and position of organs and tissues deep in your body.
CT stands for computerized tomography—a scan that combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles, Computer processing creates cross-sectional images (or “slices”) of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images provide more detailed information than plain X-rays do. A CT scan has many uses but is particularly useful to quickly examine people who may have internal injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma. It is also used to visualize nearly all parts of the body and is used to diagnose disease or injury, as well as to plan medical, surgical or radiation treatment.
Think of a CTA scan as a CT scan with an extra ingredient. Computerized tomography angiography (CTA) combines a CT scan with an injection of a contrast media to produce pictures of blood vessels and tissues in a part of your body. It is called a contrast material because it "lights up" the blood vessels and tissues being studied. It is injected through an intravenous (IV) line started in your arm or hand.
You may need a CTA scan if you have an abnormality that involves the blood vessels of your brain, heart, lungs, kidneys or other parts of your body. A CTA scan helps locate an aneurysm, blood vessels that have become narrowed by atherosclerosis and find abnormal blood vessel formations inside your brain. Your doctor may also use this test to identify blood vessels damaged by injury, find blood clots that may have formed in your leg veins and traveled into your lungs or evaluate a tumor that is fed by blood vessels.
Information from CT angiography may help prevent a stroke or a heart attack. This type of test may also help your doctor plan cancer treatment or prepare you for a kidney transplant. Your doctor may have other reasons for ordering this test.