Open Accessibility Menu

12 Reasons You May Need a CT Scan

12 Reasons You May Need a CT Scan

A CT scan is a widely used imaging test that can be used for various reasons, such as to diagnose and treat stomach problems, head injuries, and cancer.

A computerized tomography (CT) scan is a type of imaging test. A CT scan is an easy way for your doctor to view bones, muscles, organs, and other structures inside your body. It is also often used to diagnose, treat, and monitor a variety of health conditions.

A CT scan is available at many hospitals, including Lompoc Valley Medical Center. Keep reading to learn more about the top 12 reasons your doctor may order a CT scan.

1. To Evaluate Blood Vessel Problems

Stroke, peripheral artery disease (PAD), and carotid artery disease (CAD) include some of the many serious vascular diseases. A CT scan allows your doctor to see your blood vessels. It also allows them to check for problems like blockages that can cause these diseases and other fatal events. Compared with surgery or biopsy, a CT scan is a far less invasive and safer method for diagnosing a blood vessel condition.

2. Because You Cannot Have An MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another imaging procedure similar to a CT scan. However, there are some situations in which you may not be able to have an MRI. Your doctor may recommend a CT scan instead of an MRI if you have a metallic device in your body, like a pacemaker. You may also be ineligible for an MRI if you have bullets, shrapnel, screws, or other metallic objects in your body.

An MRI takes longer to perform than a CT scan. That means your doctor may recommend a CT scan if there is not enough time to do an MRI. A CT scan is also ideal for people who have an injury or condition that prevents them from lying still. An MRI requires you to remain still and not move at all for the entire duration of the test.

3. You Have Abdominal Issues

A CT scan offers a clear view of your digestive and reproductive organs. That can help your doctor diagnose problems related to abdominal issues such as kidney stones, tumors, or intestinal blockage. Infections and bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and pancreatitis represent other serious conditions that can be diagnosed with a CT scan.

You may need a CT scan if you have one or more stomach symptoms, and your doctor is having a difficult time diagnosing your condition. This one procedure can replace several other tests needed to diagnose a specific problem.

CT scans also screen for colon cancer. Doctors who can do a virtual colonoscopy usually use a CT scan to look for signs of colon disease and colon cancer.

The CDC recommends that adults between the ages of 45 and 75 be checked regularly for colon cancer. Therefore, you may need a CT scan if you are an older adult or meet the risk factors of colon cancer.

4. To Find the Exact Location Of a Tumor

Your doctor may know the general location of a tumor, but a CT scan can provide a more precise location. That is useful for surgery because it can prevent your surgeon from making larger or multiple incisions to find and remove a tumor.

CT scans can also help your doctors see the tissue surrounding a tumor. That can show whether the tumor or cancer is spreading to other parts of the body. Your doctors can use a CT scan to see if a tumor is growing larger over time. If so, your doctors can use images from the scan to remove the tumor.

5. To Examine Small Bones

A CT scan can create a series of cross-sectional images, or slices, of your bones. That can help your doctor closely examine small bones or injuries affecting small bones in the hands, feet, and spine. Many times, injuries to small bones cannot be seen with other imaging procedures. A CT scan can also measure your bone density to diagnose and monitor certain bone conditions.

6. To Evaluate a Head or Brain Injury

Your doctor may order a CT scan to evaluate, diagnose, and treat a head or brain injury. Symptoms like headache and dizziness can be caused by health problems that affect the head or brain. A CT scan can give your doctors detailed images of your brain. That can help them identify tumors, bleeding, blood clots, infection, fractures, and many other problems.

You may need a CT scan if you are having unexplained dizziness or headaches. You may also need one if you recently suffered from a stroke or blow to the head. A CT scan for the brain can determine why you have aneurysms, or reveal whether bones in your skull are causing hearing problems.

7. To Determine the Source Of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain, especially in the back or spine, can come from many different places. Sometimes, a fracture or issue in another part of your body may be causing chronic back pain. That is known as referred pain. A CT scan can help your doctor find the root cause of your chronic pain so it can get properly treated.

A CT scan gives your doctor a clear view of your spinal cord and vertebrae. That can help your doctor locate fractures, herniated disks, or scoliosis. This imaging procedure also allows your doctor to look at your spine before and after surgery. In some instances, a CT scan may be used with an MRI to better evaluate arthritis or infections.

8. To Evaluate the Severity Of An Injury

You may need a CT scan if you just had an accident or a serious injury. For example, if you were in a car accident, your doctors may do a CT scan to learn more about your injuries. That allows them to choose the right surgeries or treatments that can keep you alive.

CT scans are much faster than MRIs. That is why they are more commonly used in emergencies. Also, other imaging procedures like X-rays cannot always detect internal injuries like internal bleeding.

9. To Look At Soft Tissue Damage

In addition to bones and muscles, a CT scan can give your doctor a clear view of your soft tissues. That can be useful if you suffer a fracture because soft tissue around the bone could also be damaged. An X-ray is usually only helpful at identifying bone fractures but cannot always show tissue damage.

Soft tissue damage can result from sports and exercise-related injuries. Sprains, strains, tendinitis, and bursitis are common soft tissue injuries that can be easily spotted and diagnosed with a CT scan.

10. To Help Your Doctor Perform a Procedure

Your doctors may use a CT scan to help them accurately perform a procedure. These procedures include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biopsy, and surgery. A CT scan can give them a more precise view of the area they are treating. It may even prevent them from cutting or treating a part of your body that isn’t affected by an injury or disease.

For example, with radiation therapy, a CT scan can prevent your doctor from delivering radiation to an unaffected part of your body. That could increase the risk of side effects. Or, your doctor may use a CT scan to perform a biopsy of a lump or mass in the breast found during a mammogram.

11. To Detect and Prevent Bone Loss
A CT scan is one of the most effective ways to detect, diagnose, and prevent bone loss or osteoporosis. Osteoporosis affects 54 million Americans and causes an estimated two million broken bones every year, reports the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation.

Osteoporosis screening is a routine procedure for older adults over the age of 50. If you are aged 50 or older, you may need a CT scan to look for signs of bone loss.

12. To Evaluate Your Current Treatment Plan
You may need a CT scan if you are currently receiving treatment for cancer or another serious condition. A CT scan can help your doctors see whether your current treatment is working. It can also tell them if it’s time to try another treatment that may work better for your condition.

If you need a CT scan, your doctors can give you more information about how it works. They can also discuss the potential risks and side effects of this procedure. Your doctor may talk to you about the benefits of a CT scan over MRI and help you determine whether this imaging procedure is correct for you.

Imaging and Radiology Services At Lompoc Valley Medical Center
Lompoc Valley Medical Care offers several diagnostic imaging procedures, including CT scans, MRIs, and X-rays. Our doctors can use one or more imaging and radiology services to evaluate, diagnose, and treat your condition. Visit our provider page today to make an appointment and learn more about our many available healthcare services for you and your family.