How are CAT or CT scans used to study the human body?

Diagnostic Equipment, Tests, and Techniques Read more from
Chapter Health and Medicine

Aplessor or plexor or percussor is a small hammer, usually with a soft rubber head, used to tap the part directly. Also called a reflex hammer or a percussion hammer, it is used by a doctor to elicit reflexes by tapping on tendons. In the most common test, the patient sits on a surface high enough to allow his legs to dangle freely, and the physician lightly taps the patellar tendon, just below the kneecap. This stimulus briefly stretches the quadriceps muscle on top of the thigh. The stretch causes the muscle to contract, which makes the leg kick forward. The time interval between the tendon tap and the start of the leg extension is about 50 microseconds. That interval is too short for the involvement of the brain and is totally reflexive. This test indicates the status of an individual’s reflex control of movement.

CAT or CT scans (computer-assisted tomography or simply computerized tomography), are specialized X rays that produce cross-sectional images of the body. They are used to study many parts of the body, including the chest, abdomen and pelvis, extremities (arms and legs), and internal organs, such as pancreas, liver, gall bladder, and kidneys. CT scans of the head and brain may detect an abnormal mass or growth, stroke damage, area of bleeding, or blood vessel abnormality. Patients complaining of pain may have a CT scan to determine the source of the pain. Sometimes a CT scan will be used to further investigate an abnormality found on a regular X ray.

Dr. Allan M. Cormack (1924–1998) and Godfrey N. Hounsfield (1919–2004) independently discovered and developed computer assisted tomography in the early 1970s. They shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research.


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