What Is Computed Tomography (CT Scan)? - Definition, History & Uses

Instructor: Jennafer Tomlinson
This lesson will provide you with informative information regarding Computed Tomography (CT). This definition and history are discussed as well as the many uses of a CT machine.

Definition of Computed Tomography

Have you ever seen a Computed Tomography (CT) scan performed? You've probably seen it in a movie somewhere where a character received a 'brain scan.' You might've even been the person receiving this type of medical exam! If this doesn't sound familiar, though, don't worry! Readers of this article will better understand what exactly Computed Tomography imaging is and what it is used for whether you have experienced this imaging procedure first hand or not.

Computed Tomography is a medical imaging examination that is performed with a special machine. This machine delivers radiation, in the form of x-rays, through the body to create images. Computed Tomography differs from a regular x-ray exam in that it creates cross-sectional images of the body and displays them in the form of slices.

CT Image Slice of Lungs
CT Image Slice of Lungs

To better understand this concept, imagine that you have a sliced loaf of bread in front of you. You can pull out one slice of bread and view it from all different angles. Computed Tomography incorporates this same concept within the images it creates. The CT allows radiologist and physicians to view slices or parts of the body from all different angles. Newer Computed Tomography machines use a spiral technique that actually creates a 3-dimensional image in addition to the older sliced images.

3D CT Image of Mandibular (Bottom Jaw) Fracture
3D CT Image

History of Computed Tomography

Computed Tomography was introduced in England during the early 1970's by Godfrey Hounsfield. This was the first radiology machine to provide anatomical data with such great detail. Until the CT machine was invented, there were many diseases and disorders that had gone undiagnosed. This invention not only provided doctors with better detail of medical injuries and conditions, but it also paved the way for future technology advances in radiology.

Uses of Computed Tomography

Computed Tomography has many uses. A CT machine can be used to diagnose fractures as well as disease. Computed Tomography can also be used to locate specific complications such as tumors or blood clots. Infections and internal injuries can be diagnosed with the use of a CT machine as well. Since Computed Tomography works by moving a table through a big, circular shaped hole, the patient is able to lie instead of standing.

Computed Tomography Machine
Computed Tomography (CT) Machine

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