Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
CT scans, sometimes called CAT scans, are specialized x-rays used to diagnose and treat certain medical conditions. CT scans are most commonly used to study the chest, brain, abdomen and pelvis. They are helpful in diagnosing cancers, vascular diseases and bone injuries.
Typically, a CT scan requires no preparation other than the removal of glasses, jewelry, dentures and other accessories. However, in certain circumstances, the patient may be asked to withhold food and drink for a period of time prior to the scan. The patient may also be asked to wear a gown. The patient is then placed on a padded table. Straps and pillows may be used to help patients remain in the correct position for the scan.
Administering Contrast Material
In some cases, the scan may require the use of a contrast material. This material will provide a clearer image of the area to be scanned. Patients may be given an oral contrast agent, or it may be administered intravenously.
Once the patient is in position, the machine is activated. The table will move quickly through the scanner so that the technician can determine the correct starting position. Then, the table will move slowly for the actual scan. The length of time needed for a CT scan depends on the type of scan being performed and whether contrast is used. Some scans take only a few minutes, but others take as long as thirty minutes. The patient must remain still during this time so that the image is not blurred.
The scan is monitored by a technician located in an adjacent room. The technician can view the CT imagery as it is gathered. A microphone and speaker allow the patient and technician to communicate during the scan.
Once the CT scan is complete, the images are reviewed by a radiologist. The radiologist will send the results to the physician, who will discuss the results and any necessary treatment options with the patient.