What Is a Weightbearing Computed Tomography Scan?

Computed tomography (CT) scanning is a method your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon can use to see the bones in your foot and ankle. In a weightbearing CT scan, you are standing upright and putting weight on your foot and ankle when the scan is taken. This type of imaging provides better detail than an X-ray to evaluate a broken bone, arthritis, foot deformities, and other diseases that can affect the bones of your foot.

What happens during a Weightbearing CT scan?

In a traditional CT scan, the patient lies down and passes through a tube. Weightbearing CT allows you to stand upright so the scan can provide information about the bones of your foot and ankle when they are supporting your weight.

The image shows one example of a weightbearing CT scanning machine. On this machine, you stand on the red circle and hold onto the bars while a scan is obtained of your feet and ankles. It takes a few minutes to complete the study.

Weightbearing CT machine

What are the advantages of a Weightbearing CT scan?

The foot and ankle are weightbearing structures of your body. This means that they support your weight every time you walk. A Weightbearing CT scan provides better detail and information about what your bones look like when you stand or walk, which helps your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon to better guide your care. This is very helpful for evaluating the alignment of the bones, particularly if they are out of alignment (a deformity) and if you and your surgeon are considering a surgery to realign them.

Weightbearing CT can also be obtained in less time and with less radiation than a traditional CT scan.

What are the disadvantages of a Weightbearing CT scan?

The primary disadvantage is that Weightbearing CT is not widely available. It is also more costly than an X-ray but similar in cost to a traditional CT scan. Your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon can explain the reasons to obtain this scan and how it can aid your treatment.

Is it harmful to get a Weightbearing CT scan?

Getting a Weightbearing CT scan is mostly harmless, with only a very small amount of radiation exposure. It involves approximately the same amount of radiation as conventional X-rays of the foot and ankle and less radiation than a traditional CT scan.

Is Weightbearing CT expensive?

A Weightbearing CT scan is approximately the same cost as a traditional CT scan and is covered by most insurance plans.

 

Original article by Sudheer Reddy, MD
Contributors/Reviewers: Elizabeth Cody, MD; David Porter, MD, PhD

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images, and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find a Surgeon" search to locate a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.