How to read a CT of the abdomen and pelvis

Annotated teaching case

CLICK HERE to view this case in FULL SCREEN mode (in Radiopaedia).

CLICK HERE to view the unlabeled case as a DICOM (in Pacsbin)


Self-guided review of anatomy

The radiologists job starts with understanding what basic anatomy looks like on x-ray, CT, MRI, US and nuclear medicine scans. I often find it amazing how much of my job is simply being aware of normal anatomic relationships and structures in imaging, the same basics that are taught in anatomy through Netter diagrams and cadaveric dissections. Deviations from normal form the basis by which radiologists identify, describe, and understand disease.

Thus, the importance of identifying these normal structures cannot be overstated! Take your time and build the mental connections that bridge your varied experiences with illustrations, cadaver experiences, and cross-sectional imaging (in this case, CT) into a rich, 3-dimensional understanding of anatomy that will benefit your medical studies greatly!

Instructional videos

How to read a CT of the abdomen and pelvis (axial)

Review key anatomy and learn the basic search pattern that radiogists use to review every CT exam.

The axial plane is the view that most radiologists use to primarily interpret studies.

How to read a CT of the abdomen and pelvis (coronal)

The coronal plane is more intuitive to look at for many beginners and non-radiologists. It can be thought of as "looking at the patient in front of you". This view also provides a "second chance" to identify important findings that may be easy to overlook in the axial plane.

Routinely reviewing both axial and coronal planes will help your brain form a 3-dimensional understanding of anatomy.

How to use a basic PACS viewer

Pull up a CT and review it like a pro!

This quick video that reviews how to properly manipulate radiology images that every student and trainee should be familiar with. This includes changing window/level settings, basic annotation, measuring ROI, and changing the layout to triangulate a finding in two planes.

Reporting template

CT abdomen and pelvis template checklist.docx

This is the template I use to interprate all of my CT of the Abdomen and Pelvis exams.

This checklists serve as a guide to help you develop your search pattern, and draws attention to pertinent positives and negatives for each organ system. Example normal language that could be used in the final report is italicized.

This is a great resource to have printed or on a laptop/tablet during abdominal radiology rotations, or for attempting to interpret studies on your own!

Next step: review these annotated DICOM teaching cases

"Classic" case #1: Acute appendicitis

"Classic" case #2: Sigmoid diverticulitis

Abdominal CT 101