A computed tomography (CT) scan, also known as a Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) scan, is a specialized x-ray procedure offered at Raleigh Radiology.
During a CT scan, multiple images are taken and compiled into complete, cross-sectional pictures (or slices) of soft tissue, bone and blood vessels. The resulting images reveal details that are typically invisible or difficult to see in a traditional x-ray.
Physicians rely on CT images to properly diagnose a variety of injuries, conditions and diseases. These scans often detect abnormalities earlier than a basic x-ray, resulting in a more successful treatment period.
A CT scan is considered a safe examination. While CT imaging does use radiation, the diagnostic benefits of the procedure generally outweigh the risks of radiation exposure. Unlike an MRI exam, CT scans can even be performed if you have a pacemaker. However, pregnant women should consult their doctor before the exam. He or she may suggest an alternative form of imaging to avoid exposing the fetus to radiation.
Most CT scans, particularly those examining the abdominal or pelvic region, use a contrast agent, or dye, to highlight the organ or tissue. This contrast agent may be taken by mouth, enema or IV (intravenous line). The contrast agent blocks x-rays, making the blood vessels appear white in resulting images to emphasize any abnormalities or issues.
A CT scan is a painless procedure. A Raleigh Radiology technologist will help position you on the examination table where you will then be moved into the CT scanner. Once the exam begins, it should last no longer than an hour. The technologist will be with you for the duration of the exam, monitoring the entire procedure from the control room. He or she will always be able to hear and see you.
Once your CT scan is complete, a radiologist will review the resulting CT images and a report will be sent to your ordering physician.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need to drink contrast?
The oral contrast fills the colon for better visualization on the images.
Why do I need the IV contrast?
The IV contrast enhances all of the vascular structures on the images (i.e. liver, pancreas, kidneys). It will also characterize potential pathology.
Could I have a reaction to the IV contrast?
Yes, but the chances are minimal. It has the same risk for reaction as any medication does, which is why we use contrast screening forms—to flag possible patients who are at risk for having a reaction to the contrast.
Why is a head CT done most frequently without IV?
Most pathology can be detected in the brain without IV contrast. If there is suspicion, contrast may be given or a MRI might be suggested for further evaluation.
How long is this exam going to take?
Depending on the anatomy being scanned, a CT can take from 5 minutes up to 20 minutes.
Is it ok that I took my medication(s) this morning before I came?
Yes. Any type of medication is fine to take the morning of your exam. If you take a certain kind of diabetic medication, you may be asked to withhold for 48 hours after the exam.
What is this test going to show?
A CT scan is a good way to image and evaluate bones, internal organs, the brain and vascular structures within the neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
CT Abdomen and Pelvis / Urogram
Urograms – do not require oral contrast unless the ordering physician has specified.
CT Abdomen / Pelvis – Nothing to eat or drink 4 hours prior to the exam. Start drinking one bottle of Readi-Cat 2 (Barium Sulfate Suspension) 1.5 hours prior to the scheduled appointment time, drink the second bottle 1 hour prior to appointment time. Some patients prefer to refrigerate the contrast; however, it should NOT be poured over ice as this will dilute the suspension. Patients can pick up prep and instructions from our facilities.
Nothing to eat or drink 4 hours prior to the exam. Once the patient arrives, they will be given Volumen contrast to drink at various intervals.
All CT exams:
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your exam. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure.
Metal objects including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins may affect the CT images and should be left at home or removed prior to your exam. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work.
You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours beforehand, especially if a contrast material will be used in your exam. You should inform your physician of any medications you are taking and if you have any allergies. If you have a known allergy to contrast material, or “dye,” please let our schedulers know as you may need to be done in a hospital setting as a precaution.
Women should always inform their physician and the CT technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
If you are breastfeeding at the time of the exam, you should know that all research suggests it is safe to continue breastfeeding after your CT scan. You do not need to stop breastfeeding for any amount of time, unless you choose to.