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 Neck CT Scan?
A neck CT scan uses a special X-ray machine to make images of the soft tissues and organs of the neck, including the muscles, throat, tonsils, adenoids, airways, thyroid, and other glands. The blood vessels and upper spinal cord are also seen.
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 neck, taking pictures to provide cross-sections of its internal structures 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 Neck CT Scans Done?
A neck CAT scan can detect signs of disease in the throat and surrounding areas. Doctors may order a neck CAT scan to look for signs of an infection (such as an abscess), an injury, a birth defect, cysts, or tumors.
What if I Have Questions?
If you have questions about the neck CT scan or what the test results mean, talk to your doctor.