Decision Assist

CT scan


The purpose of this tool is to help you decide whether or not to have a CT scan. When making a decision like this, you must balance:

This tool is not a substitute for professional medical care and advice. Work with your doctor to help you make this decision. A second opinion from another doctor may be valuable. There is usually no exact “right” or “wrong” answer.

Your physician may make certain recommendations to you. However, the final decision about whether to have this test rests with you.

What is the test?

Computed tomography (CT) is a method of body imaging in which a thin x-ray beam rotates around the patient. Small detectors measure the amount of x-rays that make it through the body area of interest.

CT scan

CT provides quick, detailed cross-sectional imaging that can be reconstructed into three-dimensional models of your body on a computer. Scans using dye (typically iodine-based contrast) allow doctors to evaluate blood vessels and check the body for tumors.

CT is often used in cases of injury to check the brain, chest, and abdomen. CT can be used to guide interventional procedures, such as biopsies and placement of drainage tubes.

CT scan of the brain
Click the icon to see a CT scan of the brain.

Key points

How much time this decision tool will take

What this tool will provide

Review Date: 9/19/2010
Reviewed By: DavDavid C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. (6/6/2008)

  • Multidetector computed tomography for the diagnosis of coronary artery disease: a systematic review. American Journal of Medicine. March 2006;119(3):203-16.
  • Multi-detector row CT of hemoptysis. Radiographics. Jan-Feb 2006;26(1):3-22.
  • CT colonography for colon cancer screening. Gastrointest Endosc. January 2006;63(1):121-33.
  • High-resolution CT in diagnosis of diffuse infiltrative lung disease. Semin Ultrasound CTMR. October 2005;26(5):332-47.
  • Multidetector CT evaluation of abdominal trauma. Radiol Clin North Am. November 2005;43(6):1079-95.
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