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How Do I Interpret the Results of a CT Scan?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2016
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As a patient, you do not interpret the results of a computerized tomography (CT) scan. Rather, it is a trained professional, usually a radiologist, who interprets the results. After the radiologist analyzes the images produced by the scan, he or she sends the results in a report to your doctor. Your doctor then informs you of any normal or abnormal findings.

After a CT scan, during which an x-ray machine captures images of your body, a professional uses a computer to combine these multiple x-rays into detailed, cross-sectional or three-dimensional images. The comparison is that images from a CT scan are like that of a loaf of bread. That is, the results of a CT scan can come from looking at each individual image, or slice of bread, or from putting together the images, like a loaf of bread, and looking at it as a three-dimensional image. In general, these images allow a doctor to view blood vessels, bones or soft tissue. The results of a CT scan can uncover medical issues or injuries.

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Since a CT scan is able to provide varied information, there might be a number of reasons for different people to undergo such a procedure. If you have lung problems, for example, a CT scan might reveal the cause to be a blood clot. Or perhaps you might undergo a head CT to monitor a known condition, such as a brain tumor. You might even have a CT scan during a biopsy or surgery to help guide a medical instrument during the procedure. Overall, the results of a CT scan depend on your specific medical condition, as well as whether the radiologist finds anything out of the ordinary within the images captured.

Even with detailed images, sometimes the results of a CT scan might be inconclusive, in which case you might have to repeat the procedure. Whether it is your first CT scan, or a follow-up, there is a substance sometimes used to obtain a better image. This substance is known as contrast material. Contrast material can be very helpful in that it helps emphasize the distinction between different areas of the body. If your doctor decides to use contrast material, you might take the substance in injection or oral form.

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