Computerized Tomography, also known as a CT or CAT scan, is noninvasive medical tests that can help your medical provider diagnose and treat a wide variety of medical conditions. It works by using x-rays and computers to create detailed images of your body’s internal structures.
A CT scan can be helpful to examine almost any part of your body, but some of the most common conditions evaluated include injuries (trauma), cardiovascular disease, cancers, infectious diseases, and sources of pain.
- Chest CT: A CT scan of the chest can look for problems within the heart, lungs, and esophagus as well as in the tissues and blood vessels in the center of the chest. Common chest problems that a CT scan may find include infection in the chest, tuberculosis, emphysema, pneumonia, an aneurysm, a pulmonary embolism, and lung or esophageal cancer. If you received abnormal findings on a recent chest x-ray, your doctor may order a CT scan of the chest to get an in depth look and accurately diagnose the problem.
- Abdomen CT: CT scans of the Abdomen/Pelvis can be used to diagnose and detect many different problems regarding organs in the pelvic area. For women, these include the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. For a man, a CT scan will look at the prostate gland and testicles as well as other reproductive organs. Besides the examination of the reproductive organs of both male and female, a CT scan can detect many other conditions including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis, and cancers of the kidneys, liver, pancreas, ovaries and bladder.
- Head CT: A CT scan of the head will give your doctor an in depth view of areas including the eyes, facial bones, sinuses, inner ear, and brain. Typically CT scans of the head are used to detect bleeding in the brain, brain tumors, damage from a stroke and diseases of the skull. If you have had confusion, paralysis, vision problems, vertigo, headaches and numbness, your doctor may order a CT scan to determine the cause of these symptoms. CT scans of the facial area are performed to detect issues with the eyes and optic nerves, sinuses, problems with bones and joints of the skull and jaw.
What should I expect?
Upon arrival for your CT scan, please sign in with the front office staff, provide photo ID and insurance card(s), and fill out any necessary forms. You will then be taken to the CT room and may need to change in to a hospital gown or remove clothing and jewelry that may interfere with the scan. This includes belts, earrings/body jewelry, shirts with zippers/snaps, bras, and glasses. If possible try to avoid wearing these items to your appointment.
Depending on the type of scan or body part to be scanned, you may be given a contrast medium. This dye may be given orally (as a drink), through an injection (shot), or as an intravenous line (IV). It will then travel through your bloodstream to create a clearer picture of certain parts of your body. Oral and intravenous contrast can be extremely helpful (and sometimes mandatory) to appropriately diagnose or exclude certain medical conditions. At Prime Radiology, we review all orders to ensure that you receive contrast agents only when necessary. If you are to receive an IV of contrast medium then certain blood work must be completed 48 hours prior to the procedure. The two specific blood specimens we will need are B.U.N and creatinine, which let us know how well your kidneys are functioning. Your doctor should provide you with a lab request or draw the necessary blood-work when ordering the scan. If you have any kind of kidney disease, Please inform the front office when making your appointment. * If you have not completed the necessary blood-work, please contact our office as soon as possible.
Once in the room, the technologist will help to position you on the exam table. The CT scanner is a large “donut” shaped structure that the exam table will slide through, therefore you will not be enclosed in the scanner at any time. The table may have pillows, special head cradle or straps, depending on the type of scan. Most likely you will lie on your back, although the technologist may need to lie on your stomach or side depending on which part of the body is to be scanned and to insure a clear picture is obtained. Although CT scans are not painful, you will need to lie still for the entire scan, and may be asked to hold your breath at times which could become uncomfortable. If you are to receive an IV, you may feel some discomfort including itching or heat at the injection site and a metallic taste in your mouth. No need to worry, this is common and should disappear after a few minutes.
During the scan, the technologist will be in adjoining control room monitoring the procedure. However, they will be able to communicate with you through an intercom system and observe you through a window. In the beginning of the procedure the exam table may move rather quickly through the scanner to insure that your body is in the right position. After insuring that you are correctly positioned the exam table will move slowly and you may hear the machines making some noises.
When the scan is completed, the technologist may have you remain on the exam table for a few minutes while they review the pictures to insure they are clear and precise. If you received an IV, the technologist will then remove the IV and provide you with instructions. A detailed report of the scan will be forwarded to your doctor.
If you have any questions at all, Please ask the front staff or your technologist. We want your experience to be comfortable and beneficial, and we are more than willing to help you in any way.
How do I prepare?
If you have any prior imaging studies at another facility, please bring them with you at the time of your appointment. If you are unable to bring them, please contact the office to fill out a records request form so we are able to obtain them prior to your appointment. Having prior imaging studies can many times be essential to making the correct diagnosis and prevent further work-up of findings.
Prior to arriving at our facility, you will receive specific instructions from one of our employees if any fasting or other prep is needed. Please read “Patient Preparation for CT Scans” for specific instructions. If you have a question, please call the imaging center.
Prior to examination, please inform our technologist if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant. Depending on the clinical indication, we may need to alter your examination.
Please inform the office or the technologist (at time of examination) if you have had any prior reactions to iodinated contrast material. Depending on the prior reaction, a steroid prep or an alternative examination may be recommended.
What are the benefits of a CT Scan?
CT scans have dramatically changed the way healthcare is practiced since its introduction in the 1970’s. They are now an indispensable part of healthcare and affect nearly all subspecialty areas. Some of the more common benefits include: preventing unnecessary surgery, preventing the need to be admitted to the hospital, reducing length of hospitalizations, and improving cancer diagnosis and treatment. Making sure that you receive surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy only when absolutely necessary are some of the many benefits of CT scans.
Difference between CT and MRI scans
CT scans use x-ray technology to produce multiple diagnostic images. These x-rays require a small dose of ionizing radiation. The images are then placed together on a computer to provide the doctor with a 3D image. MRI scans use radio waves and powerful magnets, instead of ionizing radiation to produce the diagnostic images.
In regards to time, CT scans typically take diagnostic images more quickly than MRI scans. CT scans can generally be completed in less than 5 minutes while MRIs can take an average of 30 minutes to complete.
There are different purposes for MRI and CT scans. CT scans are extremely helpful when diagnosing serious injuries to the head, abdomen, chest, pelvis and spine, especially fractures. As well, CT scans are very beneficial in regards to pinpointing the size and location of tumors anywhere in the body.
On the other hand, MRIs are preferred when diagnosing issues with joints, ligaments, tendons, and soft tissues, and spinal cord injuries.