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History of CT scan

CT history

From x-rays to multislice CT scans: A brief history

Today doctors can use various diagnostic tools to create detailed images of their patient’s body whenever they want. One of the most popular of them is the CT (computed tomography) scanner. As most of us already know this device uses x-rays to map the human body in just 10-20 minutes.

However the development of these scanners is less known. In this article we highlight the most important steps that lead to the current state-of-the-art CT devices.


In 1895 a physicist named Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen first detected and produced electromagnetic radiation (also known as x-rays) in Germany. This incredible discovery lead to the usage of x-rays in medicine as well in 1896.

The next big step was taken in 1917 when Johann Radon established the mathematical principles of the CT scan.

From that the development sped up: everywhere in the world scientists and doctors tried their best to advance the technique CT scanners use to create more accurate images. This led to the current state of CT scans in 1917.

Early CT scanner in use, 1980.
Early CT scanner in use, 1980.

The first ever picture that was taken with the CT scan we all know happened on the 1st of October, 1971. These first images weren’t advanced at all, they were blurry and took a lot of time to create. Nonetheless, it was a huge advantage in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Things escalated quickly from here, in 1973 Mayo Clinic (USA) also used a CT device even though the quality of the scans and the duration of the procedure were bad compared to the current ones.

The machine took pictures with an 80×80 resolution and each frame capturing lasted 5 minutes long. For comparison nowadays they work with 1024×1024 resolution with a scan time 0.3 sec/frame.


To see how quickly did CT scanners become popular let’s see some facts: Only five years after the first machine there were already 650 CT scanners worldwide. By 2017 doctors performed more than 72 million of CT scans in the USA alone

If you’d like to learn more about the procedure and the indications of this examination click here.

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