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CT head (sometimes termed CT brain), refers to a computed tomography examination of the brain and surrounding structures. It can be performed as a single non-contrast study or the combination of a non-contrast and post-contrast (delayed) study. This allows the identification of abnormal contrast enhancement (e.g. tumors) and allows enhancement to be differentiated from intrinsic hyperdensity (e.g. blood). 

Dynamic contrast-enhanced studies can also be performed to assess specific vascular structures (see CT venogram and CTA circle of Willis) as well as assess how blood passes through the brain parenchyma (see CT perfusion).

Historically, only axial planes were obtained. More recently it has become standard practice to obtain volumetric scans, with subsequent multiplanar reconstructions (see CT head technique).

In addition to various planes, the images can also be reconstructed using different algorithms (e.g. bone algorithm or soft-tissue algorithm) and viewed with different windows (e.g. brain window, subdural window, or bone window) to emphasize various tissue characteristics. 

CT examinations
Medical student radiology curriculum

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Cases and figures

  • Fig 1: non-contrast axial
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  • Fig 2: post-contrast axial
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  • Fig 3: non-contrast coronal
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  • Fig 4: non-contrast sagittal
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  • Fig 5: bone window
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  • Fig 6: subdural window
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