Computed tomography (CT) provides imaging of solid organs and, very importantly, a view into the retroperitoneum. Unlike plain radiographs, CT scanning is not dependent on the amount of air and gas in the bowel. Oral contrast material must be given to identify bowel, and intravenous contrast material enhances the density of blood vessels. The introduction of the helical CT scan (spiral CT) has made a significant impact on abdominal imaging due to the speed of the procedure. Routine CT scanning of the abdomen usually requires the patient to lie motionless for 15 to 30 min, while the helical CT scan may be finished in a single breath hold. Helical CT was originally developed to compensate for errors produced by variations in respiratory depth of the patient. 1 The radiation dose to the patient is unchanged. Another advantage of helical CT is improved vascular opacification, which allows excellent imaging of the thoracoabdominal aorta and renal arteries. Data obtained from helical CT can be reformatted in several ways, revealing three-dimensional surface anatomy and obviating the need for arteriography.
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