What is a CT scan?
A CT (computed tomography) scan, commonly referred to as a CAT (computed axial tomography) scan is a specialized, noninvasive imaging procedure used to help physicians diagnose medical conditions and diseases. During a CT scan, multiple images are captured through low dose radiation x-rays, and are compiled into detailed, cross-sectional views of organs, bone, soft tissue, and blood vessels. CT scans provide greater visibility and clarity, often revealing abnormalities that are not detected in conventional x-rays.
What are CT scans used for?
This imaging procedure is commonly used to:
- detect bone and joint problems like complex bone fractures or tumors
- evaluate changes in conditions such as cancer, heart disease, lung or liver disease
- identify internal injuries or bleeding
- locate a tumor, blood clot, excess fluid or infection
- image guided procedures such as biopsies, surgeries and radiation therapy
- diagnose and treat issues in the brain
What to expect
Most CT scans, typically those examining the abdominal or pelvic region, involve a contrast agent to help enhance the organ or tissue in suspect. There are two types of contrast, oral and IV. Oral contrast is given 30-45 minutes prior to the scan and is often used to help your physician evaluate the stomach and GI tract. The IV contrast is administered immediately before the scan and allows doctors to see organs including the gallbladder, urinary tract, kidneys and liver. If contrast is ordered, patients may be advised to not to eat or drink prior to the exam. Clear liquids are permitted.
During the exam
During the scan, patients are positioned to lie on their back on the examination table where you will then be moved through a “doughnut shaped” machine and images are captured. A technologist will be with you through the duration of your scan and may instruct you to hold your breath for short periods of time. This produces more precise visibility of certain areas as breathing creates movement and may blur the images. It is recommended that you consume plenty of fluids following the scan to help flush out the contrast.
Once your CT scan is complete, interpretations are performed by board certified, subspecialty trained radiologists. Imaging reports will be sent to your referring provider who will then contact you with your results or schedule a follow-up consultation.