A CT scan or computed tomography scan (formerly known as computed axial tomography or CAT scan) is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to obtain detailed internal images of the body noninvasively for diagnostic purposes. The personnel that perform CT scans are called radiographers or radiology technologists.
CT scanners use a rotating X-ray tube and a row of detectors placed in the gantry to measure X-ray attenuations by different tissues inside the body. The multiple X-ray measurements taken from different angles are then processed on a computer using reconstruction algorithms to produce tomographic (cross-sectional) images (virtual "slices") of a body. The use of ionizing radiation sometimes restricts its use owing to its adverse effects. However, CT can be used in patients with metallic implants or pacemakers, for whom MRI is contraindicated.
Since its development in the 1970s, CT has proven to be a versatile imaging technique. While CT is most prominently used in diagnostic medicine, it also may be used to form images of non-living objects. The 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to South African-American physicist Allan M. Cormack and British electrical engineer Godfrey N. Hounsfield "for the development of computer-assisted tomography".
Spinning tube, commonly called spiral CT, or helical CT, is an imaging technique in which an entire X-ray tube is spun around the central axis of the area being scanned. These are the dominant type of scanners on the market because they have been manufactured longer and offer a lower cost of production and purchase. The main limitation of this type of CT is the bulk and inertia of the equipment (X-ray tube assembly and detector array on the opposite side of the circle) which limits the speed at which the equipment can spin. Some designs use two X-ray sources and detector arrays offset by an angle, as a technique to improve temporal resolution.
Electron beam tomography
Electron beam tomography (EBT) is a specific form of CT in which a large enough X-ray tube is constructed so that only the path of the electrons, travelling between the cathode and anode of the X-ray tube, are spun using deflection coils. This type had a major advantage since sweep speeds can be much faster, allowing for less blurry imaging of moving structures, such as the heart and arteries. Fewer scanners of this design have been produced when compared with spinning tube types, mainly due to the higher cost associated with building a much larger X-ray tube and detector array and limited anatomical coverage.
CT perfusion imaging
CT perfusion imaging is a specific form of CT to assess flow through blood vessels whilst injecting a contrast agent.Blood flow, blood transit time, and organ blood volume, can all be calculated with reasonable sensitivity and specificity.This type of CT may be used on the heart, although sensitivity and specificity for detecting abnormalities are still lower than for other forms of CT.This may also be used on the brain, where CT perfusion imaging can often detect poor brain perfusion well before it is detected using a conventional spiral CT scan. This is better for stroke diagnosis than other CT types.