Have you or a friend or family member ever had a CAT scan? The first time you heard that term, you might have been curious. It’s only natural to wonder why a doctor would use a cat to diagnose what’s wrong with you if you’re sick!
You may be relieved to find out that no actual cats are involved in a CAT scan. The “CAT” in CAT scan actually stands for “Computed Axial Tomography.”
Sometimes these scans are simplified to “Computed Tomography” or CT scans. Either way, it’s a mouthful to say, so you can understand why it’s easier to call them CAT or CT scans!
CAT or CT scans are advanced versions of X-rays. Whereas regular X-rays can provide doctors with a two-dimensional view of a bone or other part of the body, CAT scans give doctors a much more detailed, three-dimensional view of what’s going on inside your body.
CAT scans are used most often by doctors to help figure out what is going on inside a person’s body that is making them sick. There are other uses for CAT scans, though. Some industries use CAT scans to see inside objects without destroying them by opening them. Archeologists have also been known to use CAT scans to see inside of mummies!
A CAT scan machine looks a bit like a big donut. To scan your body, a doctor will have you lay flat on a table that then passes through the ring of the donut. This doesn’t hurt a bit, but it can be a bit nerve-wracking if you don’t know what to expect.
As your body passes through the ring of the CAT scan machine, the machine takes many pictures with X-rays from hundreds of different angles. These images are then pasted together with a powerful computer to give doctors a unique three-dimensional picture of the inside of your body.
These images can help doctors diagnose all sorts of problems, including head injuries and cancer. CAT scans are an important tool that doctors all over the world use millions of times each year.