What is a CT scan?

A computer tomography (CT) scan, also called a CAT scan is a type of diagnostic test that combines both X-rays and computer technology to provide views of soft tissue, bones and blood vessels. The technology creates sectional images, or "slices", of the organs, tissues, or vessels under evaluation.

What is a CT Scan Used For?

Nearly every part of the body can be viewed with CT. The technology is frequently used to obtain a two dimensional view of a cross section of the brain and other internal organs, such as the liver, lungs, and spine. The technology is valuable in detecting tumors, and other abnormalaties that may not show up on an ordinary X- ray.

How does CT differ from other diagnostic tests?

Unlike other imaging techniques, such as X-ray and MRI, CT has the ability to produce an image that shows a combination of soft tissue, bone and blood vessels. This capability proves very useful in evaluating the chest and the abdomen, making the modality a preferred method for diagnosing cancer such as lung, liver, and pancreatic among others.

What happens during the scan?

During a CT exam, a patient lies on a table and is slowly moved into a large donut-shaped opening of the scanner. Once inside, a series of X-ray beams create hundreds of cross-sectional pictures that represent slices of the patient's body. Seconds later, the system's computer assembles the slices into the images that are interpreted by a radiologist.

How long oes a CT scan take?

Depending on the exam you will receive, the length of the actual procedure may vary from as little as 30 seconds to as long as 20 minutes.

What preparation is Required Before the Exam?

Patients are asked to fast for four to six hours before the exam, but clear liquids and routine medications are allowed. Patients undergoing an abdominal or pelvic scan are asked to drink oral contrast, which makes certain internal structures are more clearly defined during the exam. For other exams, the contrast is injected rather than swallowed. Many exams may not require contrast at all, please consult with your referring physician. If there is a possibility you are pregnant, or if you are either diabetic or have high cholesterol, please let your clinician know.

Are There an Side Effects or Risks to a CT study?

The benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk. While CT does expose patients to radiation, it is equivalent to the amount of natural radiation we receive annually. Patients rarely have serious allergic reactions to the contrast medium but nursing mothers should wait for 24 hours before breast feeding. If there is a possibility you are pregnant, or if you are either diabetic or have high cholesterol, please let your clinician know.

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