How to prepare for your upcoming CT scan
If your doctor has prescribed computed tomography, better known as a CT or CAT scan, to diagnose a medical condition you’re experiencing, rest assured that the procedure is generally painless, fast and easy. And it is a valuable tool in helping your medical team determine what is happening inside your body.
Why are CT scans used?
CT images allow radiologists to typically see greater detail when looking at internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels than x-ray images. With this greater detail, radiologists can more accurately diagnose conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, appendicitis, trauma and musculoskeletal disorders. When it comes to examining the chest, abdomen and pelvis, CT imaging is one of the most accurate tools used, as it provides detailed, cross-sectional views of all types of tissue.
How should I prepare for my CT scan?
Preparing for your CT scan is relatively easy. Depending on the area being scanned, you may be asked to take off some or all of your clothing and wear a hospital gown. You’ll be asked to remove jewelry, glasses, dentures or any other metal objects that could interfere with the image results. It is best that you refrain from eating or drinking anything for a few hours before your scan.
Some CT scans require the use of contrast material, which is a special dye that helps highlight certain parts of your body. Contrast material can be given to you by:
- Mouth: You may be asked to swallow a liquid that contains contrast material (and may have an unpleasant, but temporary taste). This is typically the case when your esophagus or stomach is being scanned.
- Injection: To help your gallbladder, urinary tract, liver or blood vessels stand out on the images, contrast material may be injected through a vein in your arm. In this case, you may feel warm during the injection or experience a metallic taste in your mouth.
- Enema: Should your intestines require a CT scan, contrast material may be inserted into your rectum to provide visualization. You may feel bloated and uncomfortable, but it will pass.
What should I expect during my CT scan?
During your CT scan, you will be alone in the room, but the technologist will be able to see, hear and communicate with you at all times. The scanner is approximately 24 inches wide, and your head and neck will remain outside the center of the scanner while the rest of your body will be inside the scanner on the CT examination table.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the procedure is holding still. If you are anxious or nervous, your physician may prescribe you a medication to calm you for the procedure.
During the scan, the scanning machine may make several passes as you hear slight buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds as it revolves around you. When complete, the technician will ask you to wait as he or she ensures the images are of proper quality for evaluation.
Following a CT scan, you can typically return to your normal activities right away. A radiologist will interpret the CT scan findings and provide a report to your doctor who can then discuss the findings with you.
Should you have questions regarding a CT scan or any other diagnostic procedure, the experts at POM MRI & Imaging Centers are ready to go the extra mile to ensure you are informed, confident and comfortable as you take care of your most important asset: your health.