Computerized Axial Tomography (CT) Scan – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Computerized Axial Tomography (CT) Scan – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Known as an advanced medical imaging technology, Computed Tomography (CT) scanning helps physicians diagnose a combination of health issues ranging from changes in soft tissue to broken bones to tumor. Also called Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) scan, this advanced scanning procedure captures detailed X-ray images from every angle to create multiple cross-sectional images of the patient’s anatomy. This scan can help physicians make an accurate diagnosis of the disease/injury and execute a proper treatment plan. If you are planning to utilize CT scanning services in Queens, NY area, make sure to select a certified radiology imaging center that uses advanced technology to produce high-quality images.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about CAT scanning –

What is a CT scan?

Computed Tomography (CT) scan utilizes a combination of X-rays and computer processing technology to capture detailed, cross sectional images of the bones, blood vessels, muscles, organs and soft tissues inside your body.

Why is a CT scan performed?

CT scanning is mainly performed to diagnose diseases and evaluate injuries. It also helps to plan advanced radiation treatments. The imaging technique can help physicians to evaluate –

  • Infections, muscle disorders, and bone fractures
  • Identify the location of tumors (including cancer)
  • Functioning of the heart, kidneys or liver
  • Study the blood vessels and other internal structures
  • Assess the extent of internal injuries and bleeding
  • Changes in soft tissue that can signal the spread of a disease
  • Trauma
  • Fever or pain of unknown origin
  • Guide procedures, such as surgeries and biopsies

Which parts of the body are scanned?

Brain, lungs, heart, skull, abdomen, pelvis and digestive organs are usually scanned as part of this imaging technique.

Will the radiation that I receive from the CT scan hurt me?

CT scan is very similar to conventional X-ray technique wherein the patients will be exposed to a very low dose of radiation. The radiation dosage from CAT scanning ranges from 2 to 10 mSv. However, CT is not recommended for pregnant women or children unless absolutely necessary.

What does the CT scanner look like?

Typically, the CT scanner is a large, doughnut box-like machine with a narrow table and a hole/short tunnel in the center. The patient will lie on the table that slides into and out of this tunnel. The electronic X-ray detectors and tubes are located opposite each other in a ring called “gantry”. The technologist sits in a separate control room and operates the scanner and observes the patient through a large window.

Can I move while I am lying in the CT scanner?

You should not move when you are lying inside the CT table and while the images are being captured as this may help reduce blurring in the image (caused by patient motion or breathing). Also, you should not move the specific body part (that is being scanned) until the entire scanning process is complete. For instance, CT scan of the abdomen and chest requires the patient to hold their breath for some time – about 10-25 seconds.

Can someone accompany me into the CT room for the scanning?

No, since CT scan uses X-ray technology, only the person being scanned should be present inside the room during the time of the procedure. However, family members or friends can wait outside the scanning room while the scan is being performed.

How long will the CT examination take?

The total time taken for the CT scan imaging will depend on the type of exam and whether it includes the use of a contrast medium. In most cases, the whole scanning process gets completed within 15 – 30 minutes. They capture diagnostic images more quickly than MRI.

Can I consume normal medications before undergoing a CT exam?

Yes, patients can consume all normal medications before undergoing the procedure (except diabetic medications). Always consult your physician before the test for further instructions.

Do I need a contrast injection for the CT exam?

Contrast injection is not required for every person who undergoes this procedure. The injection is given when the radiologist or the referring physician feels that it is necessary. The contrast material may be given to the patients by – mouth, injection or enema. The final decision to use contrast injection may depend on the patient’s medical history and the type of scanning procedure to be performed.

How is the procedure performed?

As part of the scanning, patients may be asked to lie on a narrow table that slides through the opening into a tunnel. Straps and table may be used to help patients stay in position. The table will quickly move through the scanner and the detectors and the X-ray tube which rotates around will take several images of the body. CT machines make soft, whirring noises and have flashing lights. A technologist will sit in a separate room and communicate with the patient via intercom. They may ask patients to hold their breath at certain points to avoid blurring the images.

What are the patient preparation tips for the exam?

Patients may be asked to remove clothing and change into a hospital gown. All metal objects (such as belt, jewelry and eyeglasses) must be removed as they interfere with the image results. In addition, patients may have to refrain from eating or drinking for a few hours before the scan (depending on the specific body part being scanned).

Can I have a CT exam if I have a pacemaker?

Since CT scan uses X-ray technology to acquire its images, it is quite safe for a person with a pacemaker to undergo a scan without complications.

If I am nursing an infant, Can I breast feed after an injection of CT Contrast?

Generally, breast feeding women are instructed to wait at least 24 hours after receiving the contrast injection before feeding again. However, women can pump breast milk prior to the CT scan. It is important to check or ask for instructions from the radiologist regarding the same.

Are there any restrictions after the exam?

Patients can continue their normal routines with no restrictions soon after the CT exam is completed. On the other hand, patients who have received contrast material should drink plenty of liquids for the next 24 hours.