CT (Computed Tomography) is an x-ray examination using a scanner to produce a series of cross-sectional images of selected parts of the body. The CT scanner contains a large donut-shaped ring that the body slowly passes through on a moveable table. An x-ray beam then rotates around the patient producing images of specific parts of the body. The examination is painless and will produce detailed pictures of selected body parts.
In order to make pictures of certain parts of the body clear, some CT scans require the use of contrast materials to highlight internal structures. This contrast may be given by mouth and/or injected into a vein.
If contrast material by injection is needed, an IV will be started before the scan. A small blood sample may be drawn at that time to check kidney function since this contrast is eliminated through the kidneys.
Oral contrast may be given before the scan. The process of the contrast traveling throughout the stomach and intestines may take as long as two hours, especially for scans that include the pelvis. In some cases, contrast is given to drink the evening before the exam.
The total amount of time the patient spends in the scanner is usually 15 minutes or less. However, more time should be allowed for the entire visit.
Patients should arrive 15 minutes early to process paperwork.
If contrast material is injected into the vein, it will be eliminated through the urine and should cause no discoloration. It is recommended that fluid intake be increased after the scan to help eliminate the contrast from the body.
The patient should be able to resume normal diet and activities immediately.
The patient’s exam will be interpreted by a radiologist specializing in CT interpretation and then phoned, faxed, or mailed to the referring physician promptly.