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What Are Common Reasons for an Abnormal CT Scan?

By Nicole Long
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Various illnesses, injuries, and conditions of the human body can result in an abnormal CT scan. Some of the issues or circumstances commonly responsible for such an abnormal result include diseases and conditions of the head, neck, and chest. In addition, illnesses and injuries involving abdominal organs and other parts of the body can show up as abnormalities on a CT scan.

CT scans are a beneficial imaging tool for physicians. A special kind of x-ray, these scans provide radiologists and physicians with cross-sectional images of the body. This can allow doctors to see beyond what traditional x-rays can show, and produces higher-resolution image for greater clarity and better diagnoses. These tests are a common diagnostic tool in both hospitals and out-patient healthcare centers.

A physician may order a CT scan of the head or brain to evaluate the many blood vessels and soft tissues that exist there. Tumors, aneurysms, and bleeding are all possible causes of an abnormal CT of the head or brain. Other possible causes of abnormal results can include malformations of the skull, such as a fracture, and diseases of the temporal bone, which could be the cause of hearing difficulties.

Soft tissues of the neck and structures related to the spinal cord can also be evaluated using this technology. In such a case, an abnormal CT scan may be related to a herniated disc or enlarged lymph nodes. Spinal fractures or breaks and spinal stenosis are also possible causes of a troublesome result in these regions of the body.

An abnormal CT scan can also appear on imaging results of the chest. When a physician orders a chest scan, he or she is most commonly looking for diseases or conditions of the lungs, such as a tumor, pulmonary embolism, or fluid around the lungs. Other possible abnormalities on a chest scan include evidence of emphysema or pneumonia.

Scans of the abdomen and pelvis can also result in abnormal testing outcomes. Some of the more common reasons for an abnormal CT scan result in this areas can include injuries and diseases of the internal organs. Examples include pancreatitis, appendicitis, and abdominal aortic aneurysms. Other possible reasons for abnormal results include colon or kidney cancer and hernia.

Other causes of troublesome CT results may depend on the body part being scanned. For instance, a CT of the leg or arm can reveal blood clots, tumors, or infection there. In another example, a scan of the sinuses can reveal sinus infections and obstructions.

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Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Jun 28, 2013

@burcidi-- I don't feel that way. I had a head CT scan a few weeks ago and my doctor still has no idea what's wrong. I can't understand the language of the CT scan results, but it doesn't seem to be saying much other than that there is something wrong with my head. It's not very helpful.

I'm going to have to get an MRI, which may clarify the abnormal CT scan results. We'll see.

By burcidi — On Jun 28, 2013

Thank God for CT scans. I've had neck pain for the past six months and finally a CT scan found what's wrong. There is a small fatty tissue mass in my neck that's putting pressure on the nerves there. I'm having it removed soon. Hopefully, I'll be pain-free soon afterward.

By candyquilt — On Jun 27, 2013

Do we have any Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers here with abnormal CT scans?

I was diagnosed with IBS several months ago. I just had my first ever CT scan and the doctor said that there are some abnormalities with the location of my bowels in the scan. I was born this way and this is probably why I have IBS in the first place.

I'm curious as to how many IBS patients have a similar condition and what could be done about it. I'm scheduled to see a specialist next week to learn about treatment options, but I'm afraid that all they will recommend will be surgery.

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