Computer tomography scan or more popularly known as CT scans are a non-invasive diagnostic imaging procedure utilizing a combination of computer and X-ray technology to generate accurate and detailed images of body structures including organs, blood vessels, tissues, and bones. Widely regarded as one of the most important medical developments of the past century, it is a valuable medical diagnostic tool that allows specialists to more easily and accurately diagnose diseases.
Compared to the standard X-ray technology which generates two-dimensional views of bodily structures, CT scans can create detailed and 360-degree images. This is made possible by an X-ray machine rotating around the body and taking various images in thin and horizontal slices. A computer, in turn, draws together these cross-section images to create a three-dimensional model of the bodily structure.
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CT Scans are typically utilized in the workup of abdominal or chest pain. During cases when cancer is suspected, a CT scan is relied upon by physicians in visualizing the tumor and assessing its size and location as well as the potential involvement with other tissues.
CT scanning is also widely used for the early detection of cancer. Low-dose CT scans, wherein the radiation emitted is significantly lower and which can take less than a minute to complete, is highly recommended for adults considered to be at high-risk of lung cancer due to their history of smoking. It may also be used in detecting vascular diseases, osteoporosis, infections, finding injuries, clots, hemorrhages, and other issues.
During a CT scan procedure, a patient lies on a motorized table that goes through the CT scanner, a large machine with a hole in the center. This advanced machine emits a series of radiation beams through the patient’s body which is held in position with straps and pillows.
As the table moves the patient into the scanner, an X-ray source rotates around the circular opening. Each rotation yields different images of internal organs and tissues. All data coming from the X-ray source is digitally transmitted to a computer that reconstructs the individual shots of internal organs and tissues.
In some instances, a patient may need to be administered with a contrast agent to visualize organs, blood vessels, and certain structures that are hard to see. A contrast agent may be administered intravenously, orally, or both; depending on how your doctor prescribes it.
During the test, the patient will lie on the motorized table which then goes through the CT scanner. The specialist leaves the exam room and goes into a control room. The patient can communicate with the technologist through an intercom.
The table then slowly goes into the scanner and moves a few millimeters at a time. Buzzing and whirring sounds may be heard. However, the patient won’t feel anything throughout the entire procedure.
The patient needs to stay still while the CT images are being captured. Movement can result in blurred images. In some instances, the patient may be asked to hold his or her breath for a few seconds to prevent the chest and abdomen from moving.
Once the procedure is over, the captured images are processed and transmitted to a radiologist for review. A report will be generated and sent electronically to your chart and to your ordering physician.
CT scans are a painless procedure that normally takes 15-20 minutes to complete including the interview and administration of contrast material. But there are instances when additional scanning may be needed depending on the diagnostic requirements.
Regardless of the type of scan a patient may receive, it is very important that the patient avoids clothing with any metal zippers, underwire bras, metal clasps, or jewelry. Also, please notify the ordering physician if there is any chance that you may be pregnant.
This is a list of diabetic medications – excluding insulin – that should be discussed with your physician if your CT exam is ordered with IV contrast medium: