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What Are CT Scan Slices?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 03 September 2016
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Computed tomography (CT) scanning is a medical technique that provides images of the interior organs and bones of the body. It does this by taking X-ray images of the body in many different directions to produce many images in thin slices. The machine collects all of these CT scan slices into a complex image for a doctor to use to look for signs of disease in the patient. Medical problems like cancers, internal injuries and blockages may be diagnosed using this technique.

Older medical imaging techniques such as simple X-rays have limitations in that they can only look straight through the body. CT scan slices, however, look into the body one piece at a time, similar to slices of bread from a loaf; in fact, the CT scanner takes these images in different directions, not just vertically This requires the machine to envelop the person under study, and the patient has to lie down inside the machine, which spins around the person to produce CT scan slices from all directions.

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Vertical CT slices of a person are equivalent to slices of bread, whereas the other directional slices are like cutting the loaf at a more slanted angle. Each of the CT scan slices is produced by X-rays moving through the body and landing on X-ray detectors on the opposite side of the machine. The rate at which X-rays move through the body relates to the type of substance in the way, which is why dense bone turns up white on an X-ray image. Less dense organs look gray in the resultant image, whereas air appears black.

Medical science has collected information on CT scan slices and the normal appearance of healthy body parts. If a region of the body is diseased or injured, it may look abnormal in the scan, which can help a doctor pinpoint the cause of a medical problem. Sometimes a patient has to ingest or be injected with a liquid before the scan to make the resulting images clearer. This is especially useful in diagnosing issues like a blocked blood vessel or duct inside the body.

CT scans use radiation to make the images, that is associated with development of cancers, but the amount of radiation used is highly unlikely to cause cancer. As growing children and unborn babies are more sensitive to radiation, pregnant women and kids may be unsuitable candidates for CT scanning. Advantages of CT scans over other diagnostic methods like exploratory surgery include their overall safety, the absence of any recovery time, and ease of use.

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