A computerised tomography (CT) scan is a diagnostic X-ray scan utilised to obtain a detailed, 360-degree imaging of the brain and spine. It is particularly favoured when some sense of urgency is present to diagnose patients. Additionally, it is also significantly cost-efficient, making it a feasible choice of diagnostic tool in many cases.
CT scans may not be suitable for all patients as there are risks associated with radiation exposure for pregnant women and children. However, in cases of paediatric brain and spine conditions, CT scans may be warranted under the condition that future radiation exposure is limited.
When a CT scan of the brain and spine is conducted, narrow beams of X-rays are targeted at a specific section of the body. CT scans are superior to X-ray scans as they provide cross-sectional images of the brain and spine while capturing detailed images from various angles.
During a brain and spine CT scan, you will be asked to lie down on a scanner table. Patients must be still during the procedure to obtain clear images. The scanner table then slides into the scanner, where a motorised X-ray source rotates around your body, capturing up to 30 images in a single scan.
CT scans are usually completed within 30 minutes. If you require assistance, you will be provided directions on how to request a break or address any discomfort to the technologist (through an intercom or by pressing a stop button).
Brain and spine CT scans are typically preferred in acute trauma cases and as a first-level medical investigation. CT scans may assist in diagnosing and detecting:
Brain and spine CT scans are a reliable diagnostic tool to identify issues, particularly at earlier stages of symptom presentation. While CT scans are much more detailed than X-rays, you may be advised to obtain an MRI scan if your condition is particularly evasive or ambiguous. Where abnormalities are detected via CT scan, your neurosurgeon will provide a comprehensive explanation of the findings, followed by the appropriate diagnosis.
A treatment plan will also be recommended to relieve your symptoms and forge a pathway towards recovery. Consultation may also comprise medical prescription and lifestyle changes that should be incorporated to ensure your condition is not exacerbated. Given that CT scans are usually conducted in cases of emergencies, one can expect immediate intervention or at least a recommendation to obtain urgent treatment if suspicion of a health threat exists.
Usually, a single scan is sufficient to diagnose and identify abnormalities. If results are inconclusive, it is unlikely for CT scans to be repeated; instead, you may be recommended to obtain an MRI scan for more detailed imaging.
CT scans may be repeated for monitoring purposes; however, this would be done with caution of limiting radiation exposure as much as possible. There are no strict limitations on how many CT scans one may undergo within a timeframe; thus, the frequency will be determined at the discretion of your neurosurgeon.
A CT scan is advised if you have unexplained or persistent headaches and dizziness or have recently incurred traumatic injury to the head. Visit a neurologist to determine if a CT scan is necessary.
Radiation emitted from CT is often negligible; however, it will accumulate with prolonged use, slightly increasing cancer risks. A medical professional can gauge the appropriate frequency depending on your age, condition, and the cumulative scans you have conducted.
It is important to note that both are valuable diagnostic tools, and recommendations are usually made based on your specific condition. If suspected of skeletal issues, aneurysms, or organ injuries, a CT scan is recommended due to urgency. If further investigation is deemed necessary, then an MRI may be recommended.
If your suspected condition is deemed incompatible to be diagnosed via a CT scan, then your provider will recommend an MRI. Rest assured, the selected diagnostic tool will be made in your best interest.