A CT of the head combines x-rays with computer technology to create images of skull, brain, and structures of the head. Unlike standard x-rays which take a picture of the whole structure being examined, CT has the ability to image that same structure one layer at a time.

In standard x-rays, dense tissues like bones can block the view of the body parts behind them. In CT, the various slices clearly show both bone and underlying soft tissue.

CT scanning is a non-invasive method of diagnosis for symptomatic patients with issues that require a view inside the body. It is a short, painless procedure and emits very low amounts of radiation.

When would I get a CT of the Head?

A physician or other medical provider may recommend a head CT to detect:

  • bleeding, brain injury and skull fractures in patients with head injuries
  • bleeding caused by a ruptured or leaking aneurysm in a patient with a sudden severe headache
  • a blood clot or bleeding within the brain shortly after a patient exhibits symptoms of a stroke
  • a stroke
  • a brain tumor
  • enlarged brain cavities, known as ventricles, in patients with hydrocephalus
  • diseases or malformations of the skull.

Typically, CT is the first diagnostic imaging test performed in evaluating such symptoms. CT can be used to diagnose infarcts, which is the death of tissue, and other head-related abnormalities.

What Will I Experience?

A dye that contains iodine is often injected into the blood stream during a CT scan.

The dye makes blood vessels and organs inside the body more visible on the CT images.

According to most people, the challenging part of a CT of the head is the need to lie perfectly still. However, the technologist will keep you informed as to when to move and when to hold still.

The examination will take about 15 to 30 minutes, including the time for exam preparation and interview. In some cases, additional scanning is required as scans are tailored to suit individual diagnostic needs.