Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

CT (CAT) Scan: Head

What Are CT (CAT) Scans?

A computed tomography scan (CT scan), also called computed axial tomography scan (CAT scan), is a type of imaging test. It uses computers and a rotating X-ray machine to take cross-sectional pictures of the body. CT scans give doctors more detailed images than X-rays can provide. Unlike X-rays, they can show organs, soft tissues, and blood vessels in addition to bones.

CT scans are painless. A CT scan involves more exposure to radiation than a regular X-ray does, but the risk is small.

What Is a Head CT Scan?

A CT scan of the head uses a special X-ray machine to take pictures of the brain, skull, and sinuses, as well as blood vessels in the head.

A person getting a CT scan lies on a table. A pillow and sometimes a soft brace will hold their head and neck in place to prevent movement that would result in a blurry image. The donut-shaped machine circles the head, taking pictures to provide cross-sections of the brain from various angles. These pictures are sent to a computer that records the images. It also can put them together to form 3D images.

Why Are Head CT Scans Done?

Doctors may order a head CT scan to:

  • check for conditions in the brain such as hydrocephalus, swelling, inflammation, bleeding, and signs of injury
  • check for the presence, location, and size of abscesses, cysts, and tumors
  • locate birth defects in the brain and skull
  • look at malformed or injured blood vessels in the head
  • find the cause of headaches, weakness, or a change in mental status

What if I Have Questions?

If you have questions about the head CT scan or what the test results mean, talk to your doctor. 

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date Reviewed: 15-02-2022

Lea este articulo en Español

What next?

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.