What Is a CAT Scan?


Quick Answer

A CAT scan, or computerized axial tomography, is a procedure that uses X-rays to create images of the inside of the body, according to MedicineNet.com. It is often used to determine irregular or abnormal parts of the body to aid in formulating diagnoses.

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Full Answer

A CAT scan is also called a CT scan. The patient lies on the scanner bed in a large cylindrical-shaped machine. The X-ray machine takes images, or tomograms, of sections of the body. The CAT scan can produce three-dimensional images out of the tomograms, notes MedicineNet.com. In some cases a dye is injected into a catheter before a CAT scan is performed to increase the contrast between internal organs and structures.

CAT scans can be done to find tumors and blood clots, diagnose bone tumors and find broken bones. It is also used to determine if there is injury to internal organs after a serious accident, asserts Mayo Clinic. CAT scans can be used to determine the density of a patient's bones when diagnosing osteoporosis and for looking at the structure of the spine, notes MedicineNet.com. The risks associated with CAT scans are minimal, although patients are exposed to greater-than-normal amounts of radiation and some patients may experience allergic reactions to the dye if it is used, states Mayo Clinic.

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