What Is a CT Scan?
A computerized tomography scan (CT) is an advanced x-ray. Using a high-speed computer, several different x-rays are taken from multiple angles around your body and arranged to create cross sections of your internal organs. CT scans allow doctors to examine bones, blood vessels, and other soft tissues in greater detail.
For some CT scans, patients are injected with a contrast dye that highlights certain tissues. It allows doctors to differentiate between healthy and diseased tissue, making it possible to accurately diagnose many diseases in their early stages.
When Is a CT Scan Used?
CT scans are used whenever doctors require more diagnostic information than can be obtained using a regular X-ray.
What Happens During a CT Scan Procedure?
You will be asked for your medical history and then change into a gown. You will lie down on a table beneath the x-ray machine and asked to remain as still as possible to avoid blurring the images. You may hear some whirring or high-pitched beeps while the machine is active, and the table will move after each scan. For more precise results, you may also be asked to hold your breath for a short time. CT scans typically last for 10-15 minutes and you will be able to communicate with the technologist at all times during the exam.
What Are the Risks and Benefits of a CT Scan?
There are few risks from a CT scan. They are some of the safest exams we do. However, you will be exposed to a very small amount of radiation, so if you are pregnant, you should not have a CT scan without consulting with your referring physician first. There is also a small risk you will have an allergic reaction to contrast dye. If you know you are allergic to any medications or chemicals, such as iodine, please tell your physician before the start of the exam. Our staff is prepared to treat any allergic reaction as soon as they occur.
What Conditions Are CT Scans Used to Evaluate?
CT scans can be used to examine maladies in all parts of the body, including the brain, neck, spine, abdomen, pelvis, and sinuses. However, the most common specialized CT scans performed on patients focus on the heart, lungs, and colon. Alternatively, CT scans can also be used to examine a patient's entire body for injury or disease.
CT Heart Scan
CT heart scans are used to evaluate the arteries that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients: the aorta and the coronary arteries. Doctors normally prescribe this type of scan when they are worried about plaque buildup, which can lead to heart disease, or calcium depoists, which increase a patient's risk of heart attack. They are also used to check the status of the pulminary artery, which carries blood from the heart to the lungs.
CT Lung Scan
CT lung scans are primarily used to screen for lung cancer, but they can also be used to evaluate patients with pneumonia, tuberculosis, bronchietasis, and cystic fibrosis.
CT Virtual Colonoscopy
CT virtual colonoscopies are used to search for tumors and polyps in the large intestine. Because the risk of colon cancer rises with age, most doctors recommend patients have a colonoscopy once every 5-10 years after they turn 50.
CT Body Scan
CT full body scans typically examine patients from their chin to their hips. They are used to evaluate patients with clear signs of disease or who have suffered traumatic injuries.