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Computed Tomography (CT)

CT imaging – sometimes called CAT scanning – is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. CT combines x-ray equipment with computers to produce multiple cross-sectional images of the body. These images can then be examined on a computer monitor.

You will lie on a narrow examination table that slides into and out of the CT machine. The technologist operates the scanner and monitors your examination from the control area where the computer monitors are.

How to Prepare

The CT exam lasts about 10-15 minutes, unless you are drinking oral contrast or are having a specialized exam such as a biopsy or other procedure. Drinking oral contrast may add 30 minutes to two hours. Total time you will be at the health care facility is 30 minutes to 3 hours. When you schedule your appointment this information will be available to you.

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your exam. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure.

Metal objects in the area being scanned, including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins, may affect the CT images and should be left at home or removed prior to your exam. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work. You may be asked to remove any piercings, if possible.

You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours beforehand depending on the exam type. An IV may be placed and IV contrast media, or “dye,” used in your exam. You should inform your physician of all medications you are taking and if you have any allergies. If you have a known allergy to IV contrast media, or “dye,” your doctor may prescribe medications (usually a steroid) to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. These medications generally need to be taken 12 hours prior to administration of IV contrast media.

Also inform your doctor of any recent illnesses or other medical conditions and whether you have a history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and kidney disease or thyroid problems. Any of these conditions may increase the risk of an unusual adverse effect to the contrast media.

Certain types of CT exams also require oral contrast media. If you require oral contrast media, your physician will give you a prescription to the pharmacy. You will need to pick up the contrast at the pharmacy. The pharmacist will direct you on when to drink the contrast.

Women should always inform their physician and the CT technologist if there is any possibility that they may be pregnant.

With pediatric patients, a parent may be allowed in the room but will be required to wear a lead apron or sit behind a leaded barrier to minimize radiation exposure.

After the Procedure

If you had IV contrast material, the technologist will remove the IV and place a bandage on the IV site.

Drink plenty of fluids to help flush all contrast media out of your system. If you had oral contrast media, you may notice your stools will be light colored or white.

Your images will be read by a radiologist and a report will be sent to your doctor. Your doctor will get results of your exam within a few days.

Call Your Doctor

Complications are rare. If you were given contrast, call your doctor if any of the following occurs after the exam:

  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Swollen, itchy eyes or lips
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Difficulty breathing

Types of CT Exams:

  • CT of Head or Neck
  • CT of Chest, Abdomen and Pelvis
  • CT Enterography
  • CT of the Extremities
  • CT of the Spine
  • CT Angiogram of the Head, Neck, Chest, Abdomen, Pelvis
  • Coronary CT