CT Scan

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Overview

 A computerized tomography (CT) scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images (slices) of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images provide more-detailed information than plain X-rays do.

A CT scan has many uses, but it's particularly well-suited to quickly examine people who may have internal injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma. A CT scan can be used to visualize nearly all parts of the body and is used to diagnose disease or injury as well as to plan medical, surgical or radiation treatment.

Why it's done

Your doctor may recommend a CT Scan to help: 

  • Diagnose muscle and bone disorders, such as bone tumors and fractures
  • Pinpoint the location of a tumor, infection or blood clot
  • Guide procedures such as surgery, biopsy and radiation therapy
  • Detect and monitor diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, lung nodules and liver masses
  • Monitor the effectiveness of certain treatments, such as cancer treatment
  • Detect internal injuries and internal bleeding

 

How you prepare

 Depending on which part of your body is being scanned, you may be asked to:

  • Take off some or all of your clothing and wear a hospital gown
  • Remove metal objects, such as a belt, jewelry, dentures and eyeglasses, which might interfere with image results
  • Refrain from eating or drinking for a few hours before your scan

Contrast material

 A special dye called contrast material is needed for some CT scans to help highlight the areas of your body being examined. The contrast material blocks X-rays and appears white on images, which can help emphasize blood vessels, intestines or other structures.

Contrast material might be given to you:

  • By mouth. If your esophagus or stomach is being scanned, you may need to swallow a liquid that contains contrast material. 
  • By injection. Contrast agents can be injected through a vein in your arm to help your gallbladder, urinary tract, liver or blood vessels stand out on the images. You may experience a feeling of warmth during the injection or a metallic taste in your mouth.