X-ray Computed Tomography


X-ray computed tomography, also computed tomography (CT scan) or computed axial tomography (CAT scan), is a medical imaging procedure that uses computer-processed X-rays to produce tomographic images or 'slices' of specific areas of the body. These cross-sectional images are used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in various medical disciplines. Digital geometry processing is used to generate a three-dimensional image of the inside of an object from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken around a single axis of rotation.

CT produces a volume of data that can be manipulated, through a process known as "windowing", in order to demonstrate various bodily structures based on their ability to block 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. Individuals responsible for performing CT exams are called Radiologic Technologists or Radiographers and are required to be licensed in most states.

Usage 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. 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 1.5-2% with 2007 rates of CT usage; however, this estimate is disputed. Kidney problems following intravenous contrast agents may also be a concern in some types of studies.



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