Term Paper: Computed Tomography, More Commonly Know

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[. . .] The technologist is also able to see and hear the patient, and if necessary will communicate with the patient over an intercom.

Several computers are used to control the entire CaT system (Imaginis.com, 2004). The main computer that oversees the operation of the entire system is called the "host computer." There is also a dedicated computer that reconstructs the "raw CaT data" into an image. The CaT gantry and table have multiple microprocessors that control the rotation of the gantry, movement of the table, tilting of the gantry for angled images, and other functions such as turning the x-ray beam on and off. While a Cat scan may seem a hindrance to the patient, it is painless. If the exam involves uses of an intravenous contrast medium, the patient may feel a brief sensation of heat or experience a metallic taste in your mouth, but this procedure is relatively unobtrusive. If one does receive contrast medium, an enema may be used to possibly lower gastrointestinal region. Another example would be for the patient to drink a barium mixture to outline the inner surfaces of the stomach and bowel. After the exam, the patient exits the machine and will dress and may go about a "normal routine."

Even when the patient is finished, the computer is not. Information is then processed from the detectors to produce a cross-sectional image on a video screen. Doctors can obtain various scans at different levels of the same organ by adjusting the position of the table. They can even put together several scans to create a three-dimensional computer image of the entire body. Readings are made to determine the patient's problem, and the films are returned. The films may be ready within a short period of time, and may be sent with the patient to deliver to their doctor for diagnoses.

CaT scans play a large role in the world of medical imaging. This is due primarily to the advancement made in the areas of faster scanning, and improved image quality (Frush, 2003). Many options can also be performed during one session. Frush states that since the increase of scans has occurred, the risks involved are now being studied more closely. With the increased advances, also come the potential for increased risks, but the medical community understands that there is a concern about the amount of radiation that a patient receives and the harm that it might possibly produce.

Risks of Computerized Tomography

Many of the risks associated with Cat scans are very much like those of conventional rays. During the CaT scan, the patient is briefly exposed to ionizing radiation. However, "doctors and other scientists believe that CaT scans provide enough valuable information to outweigh the associated risks of radiation" (Mayoclinic.com, 2002). As a patient, one should inform your doctor if any of the following apply:

If the patient is pregnant.

If the patient suspects that they might be pregnant, then the doctor may recommend another type of exam to reduce the possible risk of exposing your fetus to radiation.

If a person have asthma or allergies. A person might have asthma or allergies and your CaT scan requires contrast medium, there's a slight risk of allergic reaction to the contrast medium.

If the patient has certain medical conditions. If one has diabetes, asthma, heart disease, kidney problems or thyroid conditions, these also may increase your risk of an allergic reaction to contrast medium.

Children should receive a lower dose of radiation during the Cat procedure. Dr. Lane Donnelly (International Medical News Group, 2001) states that many times children undergoing a scan receive the same radiation dose that is used for adults. To alleviate this problem, the technician would simply need to adjust the tub current or the amount of electrons used to generate the x-rays. Images reviewed from the adjustment of radiation remained of high quality with "no loss of diagnostic information" (International Medical News Group, 2001).

Critics of whole-body scanning concur that this procedure is very costly and sometimes not necessary in order to diagnose many ailments (Raloff, 2003). They also maintain that the use of computed tomography often turns up "suspicious anomalies" that may actually not be a cause for concern, but will usually be the basis for more tests thus running up an expensive bill. Another issue is the fact that because the patient had a clean scan does not necessarily mean that the patient has a clean bill of health. Many diseases such as colon cancer may not show up on a routine scan. Their last argument supports the concept that when an abnormality does show up, the doctor feels obligated to treat it, and thus creates a great deal of unnecessary discomfort for the patient.

Dr. Matthew Budoff, a cardiologist of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, states that a CaT screening for heart disease "can be easily justified in most people over a certain age" and calls the ordered scans "the most medically valid" aspect of whole-body CT screening" (Raloff, 2003). Dr. George Knodos, cardiologist at University of Illinois at the Chicago College of Medicine, also supports the use of CaT scans for heart concerns in otherwise healthy people.


Continuous advancements are constantly being made with the use of computer tomography. Researchers are experimenting with various levels of radiation to reduce this risk concern. Exploration in use of the imaging and increased speed is still a factor. The use of CaT scans have greatly improved the quality of life for many patients and the inclusion of nonintrusive procedures have allowed the patient to feel more comfort and less evasive about the procedure. While the technology is phenomenal, the world of imaging is ever changing and advancements are just around the technological corner.


Imaginis.com. Computerized Tomography Imaging. Accessed April 1, 2004, at http://www.imaginis.com/ct-scan/how_ct.asp.

International Medical News Group. (2001). CT scan radiation. Family Practice News, 31 (6) 35.

Frush, D. (2003, Nov. 1). In planning CT dese reduction, one size does not fit all - Body size, imaging indication, and scanner engineering create complex formula for success. Dianostic Imaging, p. NA.

MayoClinic.com. (1998-2004). "Mayo Clinic Health Information." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Raloff, J. (2003). To your health? Controvery surrounds whole-body scans - a costly screen for silent threats. Science News, 164 (12) 3.

Wagner, H. & Conti, P. (1991). Advances in medical imaging for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Cancer, 67,1121-1129.


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