Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Head and Face
A computed tomography (CT) scan uses
X-rays to make pictures of the head and face.
During the test, you will lie on a table that is attached to the CT
scanner, which is a large doughnut-shaped machine. Your head will be positioned
inside the scanner. The CT scanner sends X-rays through the head. Each rotation
of the scanner provides a picture of a thin slice of the
head and face. One part of the scanning machine can tilt to take pictures from
different positions. All of the pictures are saved as a group on a computer.
They also can be printed.
In some cases, a
dye called contrast material may be put in a vein (IV) in your arm or into the spinal canal. The dye makes structures and organs easier to see on the CT
pictures. The dye may be used to check blood flow and look for
tumors, areas of
inflammation, or nerve damage.
CT scan of the head can give some information about the eyes, facial bones,
air-filled cavities (sinuses) within the bones around the nose, and the inner
ear. If these areas are of concern, a specific CT scan of the area is usually
A CT scan of the head may be used to evaluate headaches. For
more information, see:
- Headaches: Should I Have Imaging Tests to Find Out What's Causing My Headaches?
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.Headaches: Should I Have Imaging Tests to Find Out What's Causing My Headaches?
Why It Is Done
A CT scan of the head is done
- Find the cause of symptoms, such as confusion,
paralysis, numbness, vision problems,
vertigo, or headaches, that might mean a brain injury,
a brain tumor, a ruptured
aneurysm, or bleeding inside the
- Look for problems of the middle ear bones and the
- Help plan for surgery.
- Find damage caused by a
stroke and to help find the best treatment for the
cause of a stroke.
- Find the cause of a loss of consciousness or a
changing level of consciousness.
- Check on the success of treatment
or surgery for a brain tumor.
- Provide guidance for a brain
CT scans of the eyes, facial area, and sinuses may be done
- Look for problems of the eyes and the
optic nerve. The test may find fractures of the bones
around the eyes or foreign objects in the eye.
- Look for problems or
diseases of the air-filled cavities in the bones around the nose (sinuses ).
- Look for problems with the bones
and joints of the jaw, face, and skull, such as
temporomandibular disorder or
- Find broken bones (fractures). See a
CT scan of a cheekbone fracture .
- Look for foreign objects in the head
- Plan for surgery to rebuild parts of the face that were