AskDefine | Define tomography

Dictionary Definition

tomography n : (medicine) obtaining pictures of the interior of the body [syn: imaging]

User Contributed Dictionary



Greek tomo (slice, section) + Greek Graphos (that describes)


  1. Imaging by sections or sectioning.

Extensive Definition

Tomography is imaging by sections or sectioning. A device used in tomography is called a tomograph, while the image produced is a tomogram. The method is used in medicine, archaeology, biology, geophysics, oceanography, materials science, astrophysics and other sciences. In most cases it is based on the mathematical procedure called tomographic reconstruction. The word was derived from the Greek word tomos which means "a section" or "a cutting". A tomography of several sections of the body is known as a polytomography.


For example, in conventional medical X-ray tomography, clinical staff make a sectional image through a body by moving an X-ray source and the film in opposite directions during the exposure. Consequently, structures in the focal plane appear sharper, while structures in other planes appear blurred. By modifying the direction and extent of the movement, operators can select different focal planes which contain the structures of interest. Before the advent of more modern computer-assisted techniques, this technique, ideated in the 30's by the radiologist Alessandro Vallebona, proved useful in reducing the problem of superimposition of structures in projectional (shadow) radiography.

Modern tomography

More modern variations of tomography involve gathering projection data from multiple directions and feeding the data into a tomographic reconstruction software algorithm processed by a computer. Different types of signal acquisition can be used in similar calculation algorithms in order to create a tomographic image. With current 2005 technology, tomograms are derived using several different physical phenomena listed in the following table.
Some recent advances rely on using simultaneously integrated physical phenomena, e.g. X-rays for both CT and angiography, combined CT/MRI and combined CT/PET.
The term volume imaging might subsume these technologies more accurately than the term tomography. However, in the majority of cases in clinical routine, staff request output from these procedures as 2-D slice images. As more and more clinical decisions come to depend on more advanced volume visualization techniques, the terms tomography/tomogram may go out of fashion.
Many different reconstruction algorithms exist. Most algorithms fall into one of two categories: filtered back projection (FBP) and iterative reconstruction (IR). These procedures give inexact results: they represent a compromise between accuracy and computation time required. FBP demands fewer computational resources, while IR generally produces fewer artifacts (errors in the reconstruction) at a higher computing cost.

Synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy

Recently a new technique called synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM) allows for detailed three dimensional scanning of fossils.

See also

tomography in German: Tomographie
tomography in Spanish: Tomografía
tomography in Basque: Tomografia
tomography in French: Tomographie
tomography in Galician: Tomografía
tomography in Dutch: Tomogram
tomography in Japanese: トモグラフィー
tomography in Polish: Tomografia
tomography in Russian: Томография
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