What Is a CAT Scan Used to Find?


Quick Answer

CAT scans allow doctors to examine the internal structures of the body, according to MedicineNet.com. For example, a CAT scan of the head can show blood clots, tumors, fractures and infections, while a scan of the spine displays the vertebrae and spinal cord in detail.

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Full Answer

CAT scans are highly accurate, even allowing doctors to evaluate osteoporosis by measuring bone density, reports MedicineNet.com. However, when further detail is needed, contrast dye can be injected into the spinal fluid to display not only the structural relationship of the spinal cord and the spine but also the nerves. CAT scans are used elsewhere in the body to visualize organs, identify tumors and abscesses, and monitor changes caused by physical trauma. They are painless, and their high accuracy allows doctors to perform biopsies, extract fluids and drain abscesses in minimally invasive ways, reducing the need for surgery.

CAT scans are very low-risk, according to MedicineNet.com. The most common problem is an allergy to the contrast dye, which usually manifests as itching, burning and hives. The reaction passes quickly on its own, but a patient in extreme discomfort can use antihistamines to alleviate symptoms. The amount of radiation used in a CAT scan is minor, but it may harm a fetus, so pregnant women may want to find an alternative.

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