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April 20, 2021  
EDUCATION CENTER: Shoulder Procedures
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  • CT/Cat Scan (Computerized Tomography)

    Reviewed by Joseph Maloney, M.D.

    Computed Tomography, also known as CT Scan, or “Cat Scan,” is a diagnostic tool used to look closely at problem areas within the body. The procedure involves the patient lying on a table while an X-ray tube rotates around him or her, taking many pictures of the area from different angles. The idea is to have as narrow a slice as possible in focus for any one picture so as to maximize resolution. The computer reconstructs the multiple pictures from the various angles to get high resolution slices of the internal tissue, each of which contains the kind of detailed information that would largely be lost if they were all overlain on one another and averaged together. The pictures are printed as a series of relevant images for a surgeon or radiologist to analyze.

    Detailed Description
    Computerized Tomography is an advanced diagnostic tool, and, as such, doctors will seldom order the procedure for a shoulder problem without first performing a physical examination and other preliminary tests. Doctors often use CT Scans to examine areas that are not shown clearly or in enough detail on an X Ray, or which would be better diagnosed by a multi-angle examination.

    Image courtesy of Grant's Atlas of Anatomy

    CT is not exclusively used in orthopedic diagnosis; instead, the emergence of the procedure has enabled doctors to better diagnose heart, spine and brain problems, as well as various forms of cancer, internal organ disorders, and other pathologies. Advancements in the field of radiology have allowed the CT Scan to become one of the most reliable and common diagnostic tools.

    During the procedure, the patient lies on a moving table that is surrounded by a doughnut-shaped instrument, which houses the X-ray equipment. A technician administers the test, generally from a booth outside the patient’s room, while the patient waits quietly. The test will take about 30 minutes, or more, depending on the extent of the imaging needed. While the patient must lie perfectly still, he or she should expect the table to move, either continuously or every few seconds, while the machine makes images of the area from a number of different angles.

    After the procedure, the films are developed and reviewed by a radiologist, physician, or surgeon, who will use them to further diagnose the patient’s condition.

    Last updated: 11-Apr-07


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