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  • Release Date: 6/1/2016
  • Expiration Date: 6/30/2019

CT-Based Imaging of the Head

Elizabeth Adams, MPH

*Medical Writer, Elizabeth Adams Consulting, LLC.Address correspondence to: Elizabeth Adams, MPH. Email: ejadamsconsulting@verizon.net.

Disclosures: Ms Adams reports having no financial or advisory relationships with corporate or professional organizations related to this activity.



Technological advances have made computed tomography (CT) a vital diagnostic tool. Overall, CT use is increasing. In emergency departments (EDs), CT of the head (head CT) is more commonly performed than CT of other body areas. In neurology, head CT is able to provide simultaneous views of the structures of the brain, skull, sinuses, and vasculature. As the use of head CT increases, so do concerns about increasing exposure to ionizing radiation, particularly among children and the acutely injured. In these populations, studies have shown a significant increase and variability in head CT use without an appreciable improvement in clinically significant findings. These results suggest an opportunity to reduce the overall number of unnecessary scans and exposure to medical radiation.
The benefits of getting the right diagnosis and appropriate treatment generally outweigh the risks of radiation, but efforts to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure with head CT are essential. Recent technological advances, standards of practice, and radiation protection measures can decrease the risk of medical radiation exposure. The radiation technologist is poised to ensure that the procedure balances radiation exposure with the image quality required to achieve the clinical objective. To that end, this article will provide an overview of head CT data acquisition and interpretation techniques, performance standards, cranial anatomy, common evidence-based clinical indications for head CT, and safety measures designed to minimize the risks associated with the procedure.

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