{October 23, 2012}   Finally—I Had My Head Examined

Over the course of my life, I’m sure there have been several people who, upon witnessing my actions, thought I should have my head examined. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I actually had it done.

I had a CT (computed tomography) scan or CAT (computed axial tomography) scan of my skull. Basically, a CT scan takes X-rays slices (cross-sections) of a body part, in my case, my head.

I’ve had more than my share of sinus infections in the last few years. But for several months now, I’ve been plagued with sinus headaches, and I haven’t been able to get rid of them. I’ve tried drugs: two courses of antibiotics, prescription and over-the-counter nasal sprays, and OTC allergy meds. I’ve tried homeopathic treatments, including saline spray, nasal irrigation (netipot) and colloidal silver.

At times, one or more of these methods have provided minor relief. But the pressure in my sinuses returns, making my teeth and gums hurt and giving me headaches that last throughout the day. The pain isn’t so bad that it keeps from doing routine activities. But it makes it difficult to be creative, write my blog, complete freelance projects and enjoy the time I spend with my family.

When I’d had enough (and my husband was tired of listening to my complaints), I broke down and met with an ear, nose and throat doctor. He said a CT scan would help him diagnose the problem, so that’s what brought me to radiology yesterday.

Now, I’ve had preventative X-rays of my teeth at the dentist office and regular mammograms, but I’ve never had a broken bone (knock on wood) that required X-rays, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The technician asked me to lie face-down on a table with my chin in a cushioned holder. I was instructed to keep still; the procedure would last 3 minutes.

First, she took an X-ray of my skull, so she would know where my frontal sinus cavities (above my eyes) were located and where to start the CT scan. I closed my eyes and was alerted by a whooshing noise that the procedure had begun. The table moved forward into a large ring. The ring uses rotating X-ray beams to create cross-sectional images of my head as it moves through the ring.

In what seemed like no time at all, the noise diminished and stopped. I was done. The procedure was quick and painless.

The technician said she took about 40 images in those 3 minutes. At my request, she took a few photos with my camera during the process. She’s been at her job for more than 20 years and has had two sinus surgeries herself, so she undoubtedly can recognize a deviated septum, blocked sinuses, polyps and other problems. But she is not allowed to comment on the scans. Reading them must be done by a radiologist, she said, who has 8 years more training.

I know nothing about reading X-rays, but that didn’t stop me from Googling “CAT scans of sinuses” to diagnose myself. I learned white areas are bone, black areas are air and gray areas are soft tissue or fluid.

Frankly, the effort to compare my X-rays to those online didn’t help my headache one bit. So I’ll need to be patient and wait until I can discuss the results with my ENT.

If my brief time in the radiology lab is any indication, I don’t have a lot to worry about. I was in and out of the lab in minutes. In fact, I was walking out the door before my scheduled appointment time.  Apparently, a CT scan can be done quickly if there’s not much there—good, bad or otherwise—to X-ray.

Want to know more about my 47 and fearless project? Check out my first post here.


Tina says:

I was so excited you were possibly going to be able to diagnose yourself!!! LOL So glad you are close to finding an answer finally! And the skull images need to be transformed into some sort of art or fabric weave wall hanging. Hoping you get some relief to this unending pain asap You’ve been more than stoic. Enough!

Ha! Quite optimistic of me to think I can spend few minutes on the Internet and then read my own CAT scans. Well, I hope to meet with my ENT soon to find out my options. The sooner the better!

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