What is the test?
- CT scans are pictures
taken by a specialized x-ray machine. The machine circles your
body and scans an area from every angle within that circle.
The machine measures how much the x-ray beams change as they
pass through your body. It then relays that information to
a computer, which generates a collection of black-and-white
pictures, each showing a slightly different
“slice” or cross-section of your internal organs.
Because these “slices” are spaced only about a quarter-inch
apart, they give a very good representation of your internal
organs and other structures. Doctors use CT scans to evaluate
all major parts of the body, including the abdomen, back, chest,
A CT scan is an excellent way to view the organs inside your
abdomen. It is especially useful for looking at solid organs,
such as the liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, and adrenal glands.
It is also excellent for viewing the large blood vessels that
pass through the abdomen (the aorta and vena cava) and for finding
lymph nodes in the abdomen. Organs that can change their shape
when they are empty or full, such as stomach and intestines,
are harder for a CT scan to evaluate well, because it is sometimes
difficult for a doctor to tell for sure if they are abnormal.
Often the CT can give some information about these organs, though.
Abdominal CT scans are often used to look for signs of inflammation
or infection inside the abdomen in different organs, to look
for cancer, or to look for injury to one or another internal