ct machineComputerized Tomography (CT or CAT scan) is a non invasive imaging procedure that utilizes a specifically designed scanner that combines X-ray equipment and computers to obtain wafer thin images or “slices” of your internal structures. These images can provide much greater detail and therefore more diagnostic information about your bones, internal organs, soft tissues, and blood vessels.

To perform a CT scan, you will be asked to lie on a table which the CT technologist will then move smoothly into the center of the scanner. The technologist will leave the room to operate the scanner, but will still be able to see and hear you during the entire procedure. The table will move through the scanner to determine the proper starting position and then slowly move again through the region of interest as it is taking the appropriate images. When the scan is complete, the CT technologist will check the images for quality and proper location before returning to the room to help you get off of the table.

CT scans may be frequently ordered with the use of contrast or “dye”. There are 2 types of contrast used in CT scanning. Oral contrast, where the contrast material is swallowed and IV contrast, where the contrast material is injected into a vein. If you are 70 years old or older it is necessary for you to obtain lab work to determine your BUN and Creatinine levels prior to having IV contrast. After drinking the oral contrast you may find the taste somewhat unpleasant and your stomach will have a full feeling. Most patients have no problem tolerating these effects. IV contrast involves having a needle placed into a vein with the other end of a length of tubing attached to a machine that will automatically inject the contrast through your vein at the proper time. Many patients experience a warm, flushed sensation and/or a metallic taste in their mouths during the injection and for a few minutes afterwards. Rarely, a patient may develop itching and hives or experience dizziness and difficulty breathing. Please let the CT technologist know immediately if you develop any of these symptoms so that we may notify the radiologist.

CT Scan Preparation



CT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Will it hurt?
No. A CT scan is a painless procedure. CT scanning requires that the patient remain still during the examination which may be uncomfortable at times. CT scans which require an IV contrast injection may cause slight, temporary discomfort while the needle is being inserted and also some people report a flush of heat and occasionally a metallic taste in the back of their mouth. See the initial section above for more information on contrast injections.

Is CT imaging safe?
Yes. CT is considered a safe exam. In general, the diagnostic benefit of a CT scan far outweighs the risk of radiation exposure or injection of contrast material. Patients should inform the radiologist or CT technologist if they have a history of allergies (especially to medications, previous iodine contrast injections or shellfish), diabetes, asthma, a heart condition, kidney problems, or thyroid conditions.

How long will it take?
A CT scan is usually completed within 15 to 30 minutes. Following the imaging, you will be asked to wait while the technologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.

Do I need a prescription to have a CT scan?
Yes. You will need to bring a written order for the CT scan from your doctor or have your doctor’s office fax the prescription to us prior to your arrival.

Can a family member be in the CT room with me?
Concerns about unnecessary radiation exposure do not allow us to permit anyone other than the patient and the technologist to be in the exam room unless it is deemed necessary by the technologist.

Can I move while I am in the CT scanner?
You should not move when you are on the CT table and the images are being acquired. It is important that you not move the body part being imaged until the entire CT exam is complete. Some CT exams require that you hold your breath for a short period of time so that the images do not come out blurry.

Do I need an injection of contrast for my CT exam?
Not everyone needs an injection for CT imaging. When a contrast injection is needed, a pharmaceutical contrast agent made of iodine is used. This is only done when the radiologist and/or your doctor have determined that it is necessary for diagnostic purposes.

How long does it take to get my results?
After the scan is completed, the technologist will print the images from the computer onto film and give them to our radiologist. He will study the films and dictate a report which will be sent to your doctor who ordered the procedure. This process usually takes from 24 to 48 hours.

Can I have a CT scan if I am pregnant?
Pregnant women should not have a CT exam, especially in her first trimester, unless her doctor and our radiologist have discussed your situation to determine if the potential benefit outweighs the risk of radiation exposure to the fetus. Pregnant women should always inform their imaging technologist or radiologist if they are pregnant or may be pregnant.

If I am nursing an infant, can I breast feed after an injection of CT contrast?
Mothers are instructed to wait 24 hours after receiving the CT contrast injection before breast feeding again.