A CT scan, or computed tomography scan, permits a look at the structures inside the body to ascertain the presence or stage of certain illnesses. With a CT scan, X-rays are fed into a computer and compiled to create a 3D representation of the body’s interior.
More specifically, a CT scan uses the X-ray to spin around and around the body part, directing narrow, targeted beams through the body to the detector. This process captures every angle to create a slice, or cross-section, of a person’s body. Sometimes a CT scan is done with a contrast agent to reveal a certain condition.
Reasons for a CT Scan
A doctor will order a CT scan to help diagnose and pinpoint the location of tumors, breaks, blood clots, and infections. A CT scan can also show internal injuries and bleeding. The CT scan is useful when an X-ray is not able to identify certain conditions, like blood clots. For example, a chest X-ray might show what looks like pneumonia, but a CT scan can reveal the presence of blood clots in the lungs rather than pneumonia.
A CT scan is also a useful tool for guiding a surgeon during an operation, biopsy, or radiation treatment. It helps show the stages of a disease like cancer and whether the treatments are working or not.
Sometimes a doctor may require additional information that can only be determined by a CT scan in conjunction with certain contrast agents, like iodine or barium sulfate. These can be administered in different ways, depending on the type of CT exam being performed. It can be administered orally by drinking the agent, given intravenously, and taken via an enema in the case of a lower intestinal scan. Following the test, a patient is told to drink lots of water to help the body flush it out.
Advise your radiologist and doctor about any known allergies to medications, foods, and substances like iodine, or any kidney issues – as flushing the contrast can trigger a reaction from the kidneys. Some people exhibit side effects from the contrast agent, but most reactions are extremely mild and lead to a sensation of itchiness or a rash. However, in rare cases, it can provoke an allergic reaction, requiring the patient to remain at the center following the exam to ensure safety. Trained staff are present to assist with epinephrine if necessary.
The CT Procedure
A CT scanner is round and shaped like a cylinder with an opening. In the center is a motorized table where the patient lies down. A pillow may be placed for the patient’s head, and straps may be used to help keep the correct position if needed. As the table moves into the scanner, the X-ray and its detector rotate around the patient, who must lie very still (keeping eyes closed and holding the breath is advisable).
Each rotation of the X-ray and detector results in several images of thin slices of the body – this is what results as the buzzing, clicking, and whirring sounds the patient hears while being scanned. Most imaging centers provide a set of headphones that can pipe in music to cover the noises and allow a patient to hear directions from the radiologist or technician. Patients are also advised to remove metal accessories like jewelry before a CT scan.
After the Scan
Following the scan, a patient can resume normal activities. Just be advised that you are carrying a radioactive isotope inside of your body that can remain up to a couple of days, so flush your system with lots and lots of water. The radiologist can advise you of any additional precautions you may need to take or of any potential reactions to the agent.
Imaging Expertise in Palm Beach County, Florida
If your doctor orders any type of scan to diagnose you for a possible condition, Independent Imaging can provide you with a variety of professional imaging services. Our highly qualified staff includes board-certified and fellowship-trained radiologists who use the latest advanced technology.
To schedule an appointment, just request an appointment online or call us at (561) 795-5558 today.