A computer tomography (CT) scan is a procedure that generates a series of images that can be used to detect conditions that often do not show up on conventional X-ray images. The fine detail of a CT scan shows a clear picture of soft tissues, internal organs and bone structures, including:
- The brain.
- The chest, abdomen and pelvis.
- The spine, including discs and surrounding tissues.
Preparing for your CT scan
Some cases require no special preparation, but in other cases we may ask you to fast for four hours before your exam. If your CT scan will require a prior injection, you will be required to undergo a blood test before arriving for your CT scan. Your scheduler will discuss this process with you.
For a CT scan of the abdomen or pelvis, you will need to drink a barium mixture at home two and a half hours before your exam and another cup once you arrive for your appointment.
For a CT scan of the head or neck, you will need to remove objects such as hairpins, jewelry, hearing aids, dentures or glasses that may interfere with the test.
During the procedure, you will lie on a table that will move slightly during the exam. In an adjacent room, a trained and licensed radiologic technologist will operate a computer that rotates a tube around you. Without coming in contact with your body, the tube will send very thin X-ray beams from different angles through your body. The computer analyzes the information obtained from this process and produces pictures of the area being scanned. Throughout the procedure, the technologist can see you and will talk with you via intercom.
While the X-ray unit is operating, you will hear some clicking or buzzing sounds. It is important that you lie very still during the procedure, so the images are as clear as possible. At certain points, you may be asked to hold your breath. The entire exam may last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of scan being done.
In some cases, you may be given an injection that will assist the scanner in providing a better image. The CT technologist or a radiologist will explain this procedure to you and discuss your medical history in order to ensure that it is safe for you to receive this injection.
After the procedure, we may ask you to wait while a radiologist reviews the images from your scan to make sure that we have all the necessary information. We’ll then send a report to your physician, who will discuss the results with you.