Computed Tomography (CT)

A computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan is a painless imaging test that takes horizontal images of the body with X-rays and computers. Most CT scans last anywhere from five to 20 minutes, though yours may vary depending on your condition or circumstance. During a CT scan, an X-ray beam moves around the body in a circle, which captures a variety of different views of the same part of the body.

CT scans provide more detailed images than traditional X-rays. A CT scan of the brain can reveal tumors, lesions, bleeding or clots, structural problems, injuries and infections. CT scan technology is also used during some brain surgeries and biopsies, to guide the surgeon.

Your physician may order a CT scan for a number of reasons. They may be used to diagnose or rule out certain neurological conditions or symptoms, such as:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Concussions
  • Cranial base tumors
  • Dementia
  • Dizziness
  • Epilepsy
  • Essential tremor
  • Facial nerve disorders
  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia
  • Headaches
  • Huntington's disease
  • Moyamoya disease
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stroke
  • Tic disorders
  • Vascular dementia

Please tell your physician or the CT staff if you:

  • Are pregnant, might be pregnant or are trying to get pregnant
  • Are allergic to contrast dye or iodine
  • Have known kidney disease
  • Have diabetes
  • Have had a problem with this exam (or other contrast exams) in the past

As with any treatment or test, discuss the risks and benefits of a CT scan with your physician.

American College of Radiology (ACR) Accreditation

Northwestern Medicine is proud to be an accredited facility of the American College of Radiology (ACR). Earning this designation means:

  • We have voluntarily gone through a rigorous review process to ensure that we meet nationally accepted standards.
  • Our staff is well qualified through education and certification to perform and interpret your imaging.
  • Our equipment is appropriate for the test or treatment you will receive.
  • Our facility meets or exceeds quality assurance and safety.

Locations Offering this Test


The physicians who practice at the Northwestern Medicine Proton Center are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. These physicians have selected our facilities as the place where they want to treat and care for their private patients.