Modern CT scanner
|Other names||X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT), computerized axial tomography scan (CAT scan), computer aided tomography, computed tomography scan|
A CT scan, or computed tomography scan (formerly computerized axial tomography scan, or CAT scan) is a medical imaging procedure that uses computer-processed combinations of many X-ray measurements taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional (tomographic) images (virtual "slices") of specific areas of a scanned object, allowing the user to see inside the object without cutting. 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."
Digital geometry processing is used to further generate a three-dimensional volume of the inside of the object from a small series of two-dimensional radiographic images taken around a single axis of rotation.Medical imaging is the most common application of X-ray CT. Its cross-sectional images are used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in various medical disciplines. The rest of this article discusses medical-imaging X-ray CT; industrial applications of X-ray CT are discussed at industrial computed tomography scanning.
The term "computed tomography" (CT) is often used to refer to X-ray CT, because it is the most commonly known form. But, many other types of CT exist, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). X-ray tomography, a predecessor of CT, is one form of radiography, along with many other forms of tomographic and non-tomographic radiography.
CT produces data that can be manipulated in order to demonstrate various bodily structures based on their ability to absorb the X-ray beam. Although, historically, the images generated were in the axial or transverse plane, perpendicular to the long axis of the body, modern scanners allow this volume of data to be reformatted in various planes or even as volumetric (3D) representations of structures. Although most common in medicine, CT is also used in other fields, such as nondestructive materials testing. Another example is archaeological uses such as imaging the contents of sarcophagi or ceramics. Individuals responsible for performing CT exams are called radiographers or radiologic technologists.
Use of CT has increased dramatically over the last two decades in many countries. An estimated 72 million scans were performed in the United States in 2007 and more than 80 million a year in 2015. One study estimated that as many as 0.4% of current cancers in the United States are due to CTs performed in the past and that this may increase to as high as 1.5 to 2% with 2007 rates of CT use; however, this estimate is disputed, as there is not a consensus about the existence of damage from low levels of radiation. Lower radiation doses are often used in many areas, such as in the investigation of renal colic. Side effects from intravenous contrast used in some types of studies include the possibility of exacerbating kidney problems in the setting of pre-existing kidney disease.