Why Do Doctors Perform CT Scans of the Lungs?


Quick Answer

Doctors perform CT scans of the lungs to seek evidence of lung conditions such as tuberculosis, find causes of lung symptoms, and follow up on abnormal chest X-ray findings, states the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. They see the lungs' shape, size and position clearly using a noninvasive method.

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Full Answer

Chest CT scans, also known as lung imaging tests or computed axial tomography, or CAT, scans, are painless and non-invasive with only a slight risk of radiation, adds the NHLBI. After taking X-ray pictures of the lungs and chest interior with a large, tunnel-shaped scanner, a computer uses the information to create series of pictures called slices. There are two types of CT scans: the high-resolution scan, which provides numerous razor-thin slices with a single rotation, and the spiral chest or helical scan, where the X-ray beam follows a spiral pattern as it rotates.

Chest CT scans provide a more detailed picture of the lungs than standard X-rays, can pinpoint a tumor, and may show something that is not visible in an X-ray, explains the NHLBI. Thus, doctors recommend them to patients who have breathing trouble or chest pain or who show other symptoms of lung problems when X-rays are unable to help with the diagnosis.

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