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CT Scan

How Does A CT Scan Work?

Last modified: 
21/03/2012 - 14:09

CT uses a computer and a rotating x-ray device to create detailed, cross-sectional images, or slices, of organs and body parts.

A CT machine resembles a large, square doughnut. A flat "patient couch" is situated in the circular opening, which is about 24 to 28 inches in diameter. The patient lies on the couch, which can be moved up, down, forward, and backward to position the patient for imaging.

The CT scanner itself is a circular, rotating frame with an x-ray tube mounted on one side and a banana-shaped detector mounted on the other. A fan-shaped beam of x-rays is created as the rotating frame spins the x-ray tube and detector around the patient. For each complete rotation, one cross-sectional slice of the body is acquired.

As the scanner rotates, the detector takes numerous snapshots called "profiles." Typically, about 1,000 profiles are taken in one rotation. Each profile is analyzed by computer, and the full set of profiles from each rotation is compiled into to form the slice-a two-dimensional image.

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.