CT Scan

What is a CT Scan?

Computed tomography, also called CT or CT scan, is a process that uses X-rays and computer technology to make cross-sectional images of the body. A series of X-ray pictures, each a thin slice, are put together in a computer to form a three-dimensional view of the inside of your body.  If an X-ray is like looking at a photo of a heart, a CT scan is like looking at a model that you can pick up and examine from any angle.

In a CT scan, X-rays pass through the body and are analyzed by a computer. The computer builds an image based on the amount of X-rays passing through tissues of different thickness. For example, bone appears white on a CT scan, and gas bubbles in the stomach and intestines appear black.

The procedure is painless, and takes about 30 minutes, but can be longer or shorter depending on the area of the body being scanned.

Some exams require contrast media, or dyes, to help enhance the visualization of certain tissues. If dye is needed, it is administered by injection into a vein. You may feel a slight sensation during this injection. This will be further explained by the technologist performing your exam. Although contrast is not harmful, it’s iodine-based, which can trigger an allergic reaction in some patients. 

Inform your physician and x-ray technologist if you:

  • Have a known allergy to the contrast dye or any substance that contains iodine.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Have a history of kidney problems.

CT of the Head/Neck/Chest/Hematuria Protocol(exams that may require contrast injection)

  • You should not eat anything 4-6 hours prior to your exam. 
  • You should drink clear fluids and be hydrated prior to your exam. You may take your medications with clear liquid prior to your exam. 
  • If you are age 60 or older, have a history of renal failure, diabetes, kidney transplant recipient, a serum creatinine is needed. This is a blood test and will need to be done before you are given any contrast media injections. This test result is to check kidney function.   Results should be within  30 days of the CT scan.

CT of the Renal Stone Protocol, Sinuses, Extremities and Spine

  • You may eat and drink up to the time of the exam. 

CT of Abdomen/Pelvis

  • You should not eat anything 6 hours prior to your exam. 
  • You should drink clear fluids and be hydrated prior to your exam. You may take your medications with clear liquid prior to your exam.  
  • You will drink a diluted barium mixture called Readicat. It is best to refrigerate the barium ahead of time. Drink the barium as follows according to your appointment time.

Test scheduled before or at 10:00 am – drink one bottle of Readicat at bedtime and half of the other bottle one hour before your test. Bring the remainder to your exam.

Test scheduled after 10:00 am – drink one bottle of Readicat at 6:00 am the morning of your test and half of the other bottle one hour before test. Bring the remainder to your exam. 

  • If you are age 60 or older, have a history of renal failure, diabetes, kidney transplant recipient, single kidney, a serum creatinine is needed. This is a blood test and will need to be done before you are given any contrast media injections. This test result is to check kidney function. Results should be within 30 days of the CT scan.

During the exam:

For most exams you will be asked to wear a gown or remove any metal from the area being scanned. You will be asked to lie very still on the table that is surrounded by a large, donut-like structure. The table will move you in and out of the opening to the proper positioning for your particular exam. 

After the exam:

After the exam is completed, you will be able to go home and return to normal activities. The scan will be read by a radiologist. Your test results will be given to you by your physician.

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