CT (also known as CAT scan) is a way of imaging the organs, bones, tissues and vessels of the body. CT uses X-rays and a computer to take images of the body in cross-sectional slices, much like a loaf of bread. Technology allows ‘reconstruction’ of many CT exams into 3D format as well.
Common exams done in CT are of the head (brain), chest, abdomen and/or pelvis, and spine.
Exam preparations will vary slightly by exam, so please refer to your specific exam description, but for most exams done in CT, the following are some suggested guidelines for you to follow:
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing, preferably with no metal. This includes bras with underwires, and pants with buttons and zippers.
- You may be asked to remove devices such as hearing aids, dentures, hair pins, and jewelry.
- You will also be asked to provide a list of your current medications, current and past medical conditions (if any), surgical history and if you have had a similar exam to this in the past.
Your CT scan will be done by an accredited technologist who as completed specialized studies and training in radiation protection and anatomy. You will be placed on the CT table, usually on your back; sometimes straps, pillows or sponges may be used to help you stay in the correct position. If your doctor ordered your exam with IV contrast, your arms will be positioned above your head. The technologist will come into the scan room to ensure the IV contrast injection is successful. You may get a metallic taste in your mouth or a warm sensation throughout your body during or shortly after the injection. You will feel the table move into the and out of the machine, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. During some sequences, you may be asked to hold your breath. Most exams take from as little as 5 minutes to as long as 60 minutes.
Your exam will be interpreted by a radiologist, a medical doctor who has completed specialized studies in the supervision and interpretation of radiology studies. The radiologist will go over in detail your images, dictate a written report and send this report to your physician. Your physician will then notify you of your results.
For children, parents are allowed to stay in the room with the child, with the exception of pregnant women. Parents/guardians who stay in the room will be required to wear a lead apron.
As with all medical imaging exams, please advise your physician or the technologist performing your exam if you are or think you may be pregnant. For women of child-bearing age, exams are best performed within 10 days of the first day of your cycle.