What is a CT Scan?

CT stands for Computerized Tomography, and is a computerized X-ray machine that examines the body.

How do CT scans differ from MRI scans?

CT and MRI images sometimes look very similar, but the equipment used to perform the scans is very different. CT uses ionizing radiation just as with a routine X-ray, while MRI uses a magnetic field. Depending upon the clinical indications, one may be preferred over the other, or both may be desired.

What will I feel during the scan?

CT scanning causes no pain, just as a routine X-ray is painless. If intravenous contrast is used, you may feel warm and flush and get a metallic taste in your mouth. These sensations normally disappear after a few minutes.

How long will the scan take?

The time required will depend upon the type of scan. If oral contrast is required, about 45 to 60 minutes is needed for the contrast to move through your digestive tract. Actual scan times vary from a few seconds to several minutes. If no oral contrast is required, the examination will take about 15 to 30 minutes, including the time for intravenous preparation and interview.

Will I need to drink anything?

Most abdominal scans require the patient to drink a barium sulfate oral contrast mixture. This is a flavored mixture. Oral contrast highlights the stomach and upper intestine providing the radiologist with a detailed image for review. If you are scheduled for a CT scan requiring oral contrast, you will be asked to arrive one hour before the scan time.

Can my spouse/friend stay in the room with me?

No. CT scanners use ionizing radiation and only the patient requiring the scan is permitted in the room.

Why does the technologist leave the room?

The technologist must operate the computer system to complete the scanning procedure.

Will I get the results after the scan?

The radiologist completes an in-depth review of all the images to provide an accurate report of your examination. The final report will be sent to your referring physician within 24 to 48 hours.

Should I have a CT scan if I am pregnant?

No. If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be, you should not have a CT scan or any type of X-ray examination. You should inform the technologist if you suspect you may be pregnant.

Are there any instructions I need to follow after the scan?

If no contrast was used, there are no instructions and you may continue with your normal activities. If intravenous contrast or oral contrast is used, you will be instructed to drink water for the rest of the day to help eliminate the contrast.

Will I Have to hold my breath?

Depending on the body part being scanned, you may be required to hold your breath several times during the scan. It is important that you not move during the scan.

Can I breastfeed after an injection of intravenous contrast?

You should not breastfeed for 48 hours after an injection of intravenous contrast.

Does the radiation stay in my body?

No. CT uses a thin beam of radiation that is captured by detectors as it exits your body.