Computed Tomography Scan
A computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan allows doctors to see inside your body. It uses a combination of X-rays and a computer to create pictures of your organs, bones, and other tissues. It shows more detail than a regular X-ray.
You can get a CT scan on any part of your body. The procedure doesn't take very long, and it's painless.
They use a narrow X-ray beam that circles around one part of your body. This provides a series of images from many different angles. A computer uses this information to create a cross-sectional picture. Like one piece in a loaf of bread, this two-dimensional (2D) scan shows a “slice” of the inside of your body.
This process is repeated to produce a number of slices. The computer stacks these scans one on top of the other to create a detailed image of your organs, bones, or blood vessels. For example, a surgeon may use this type of scan to look at all sides of a tumor to prepare for an operation.
You'd probably get a scan at a hospital or radiology clinic. Your doctor might tell you not to eat or drink for a few hours before the procedure. You may also need to wear a hospital gown and remove any metal objects, such as jewelry.
A radiology technologist will perform the CT scan. During the test, you’ll lie on a table inside a large, doughnut-shaped CT machine. As the table slowly moves through the scanner, the X-rays rotate around your body. It’s normal to hear a whirring or buzzing noise. Movement can blur the image, so you’ll be asked to stay very still. You may need to hold your breath at times.
How long the scan takes will depend on what parts of your body are being scanned. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to a half-hour. In most cases, you’ll go home the same day.
In a CT scan, dense substances like bones are easy to see. But soft tissues don’t show up as well. They may look faint in the image. To help them appear clearly, you may need a special dye called a contrast material. They block the X-rays and appear white on the scan, highlighting blood vessels, organs, or other structures.
Injection: The drugs are injected directly into a vein. This is done to help your blood vessels, urinary tract, liver, or gallbladder stand out in the image.
Orally: Drinking a liquid with the contrast material can enhance scans of your digestive tract, the pathway of food through your body.
Enema: If your intestines are being scanned, the contrast material can be inserted in your rectum.
After the CT scan, you’ll need to drink plenty of fluids to help your kidneys remove the contrast material from your body.
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