Diagnostic imaging plays a very important role in modern medicine. It allows physicians to diagnose and treat many different health conditions, injuries, and diseases more accurately and easily.
A CT (computerized tomography) scan is used to enable doctors to see clear images of the structures and tissues of your body. This type of scan may be ordered for a number of reasons, from detecting a joint problem to assessing a tumor for changes. If you are due to have a CT scan, it can be beneficial to know exactly what to expect in order to prepare yourself in advance.
Preparing for a CT Scan
Your physician will give you instructions prior to your appointment, outlining exactly what you will need to do to prepare for your CT scan. Depending on the type of CT scan you will be having (i.e., which part of the body will be scanned), preparation may begin up to 24 hours prior to your scan.
Some CT scans, such as abdominal and pelvic scans, will require a contrast dye so the doctor can better assess certain structures and soft tissues. The contrast usually consists of iodine or barium sulfate and can be administered orally or by injection.
What Happens During a CT Scan Procedure?
Before the scan you will be asked to remove any metal objects, such as jewelry, and you may need to wear a hospital gown. A radiologist will perform the scan, and it generally takes about 30 minutes (or less) depending on the specific type of scan requested by your physician.
During the test, you will need to lie down on a bed-like table, which will slowly move through the large doughnut-shaped CT scanner. Low-dose X-rays will be taken as it rotates around your body as you travel through it.
You may hear a buzzing or whirring sound as the scan is being done, which is completely normal. You will need to remain very still during the scan in order to prevent any blurring of the images. You may even be asked to hold your breath briefly at times during the scan; full instructions will be given beforehand so you will not have any surprises.
The Results of a CT Scan
After your scan, a certified CT technologist will prepare your images for the radiologist, who will then interpret the images and report the results back to your doctor. Results are usually back with your physician within 24-48 hours.