Cranial CT Scans Explained

Last updated: 11 December 2017

What is a cranial CT scan?

A cranial CT scan is an accurate test to delineate brain structures and can identify brain matter, arteries, veins, cerebrospinal fluid filled ventricles and the bony architecture of the skull.

When would you need a cranial CT?

A cranial CT is used to accurately identify conditions involving the head such as:

  • Brain tumours
  • Arteriovenous malformations
  • Intracranial bleeding (including subarachnoid, intracerebral, extradural and subdural haemorrhage)
  • Bone disruption
  • Fracture following trauma

It can also be useful to identify embolic or haemorrhagic causes of stroke, certain infections such as encephalitis and degenerative signs of ageing.

How is a cranial CT performed?

A cranial CT scan of the head is performed in the radiology department scanning room, with the patient lying flat (supine) on a CT table.

The head is placed in a comfortable ‘docking pillow’ and the specialised CT scanner rotates in a gantry above the patients head.

In order to prevent unnecessary irradiation of the orbits and especially the lenses, head CTs are performed at an angle parallel to the base of the skull.

Slice thickness may vary, but in general, it is between 5 and 10 mm for a routine head CT.

Intravenous contrast is not routinely used, but may be useful for evaluation of tumors, cerebral infections, and in some cases for the evaluation of stroke patients.

Related specialists

Related procedures

  • Blood Test (venesection)
  • Intravenous Cannulation
  • Lumbar Puncture (LP)

Related tests

Also known as

  • CT brain
  • CTB
  • Head CT
  • CT Head

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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.