CT SCAN

What are CT Scan?

A CT(computerized tomography) scan, also known as a CAT (computed axial tomography)scans, is a specialized X-ray test. It can give quite clear pictures of the inside of your body that do not show on ordinary X-ray pictures.

How is a CT scan done?

The CT scanner looks like a giant thick ring. Within the wall of the scanner there is an X-ray source. Opposite the X-ray source, on the other side of the ring, are X-ray detectors. You lie on a couch, which slides into the center of the ring until the part of the body to be scanned is within the ring. The X-ray machine within the ring rotates around your body. As it rotates around, the X-ray machine emits thin beams of X-rays through your body, which are detected by the X-ray detectors and a picture is created on the computer.

What is a CT scan used for?

A CT scan gives clear pictures of soft tissues, which an ordinary X-ray test cannot show, such as muscles, organs, large blood vessels, the brain and nerves. The most commonly performed CT scan is of the brain - to determine the cause of a stroke, or to assess serious head injuries. Other uses of a CT scan include:

  • To detect abnormalities in the body, such as tumours, abscesses, abnormal blood vessels, etc, when they are suspected by symptoms or other tests.
  • To give a surgeon a clear picture of an area of your body before certain types of surgery.
  • To pinpoint the exact site of tumours prior to radiotherapy.
  • To help doctors find the right place to take biopsies (tissue samples).

What preparation do I need to do before a CT scan?

Usually very little. It depends on which part of your body is to be scanned.

As a general rule, you will need to

  • Remove any metal objects from your body, such as jewelry, hair clips, etc. It is best not to wear clothes with metal zips, studs, etc.
  • You may be asked not to eat or drink for a few hours before your scan - depending on the part of your body to be scanned. If you need an injection of contrast, it may be necessary to stop certain medicines before the procedure. This may apply to people taking metformin, a medicine used to treat diabetes. If you are taking this medication your doctor should give you instructions about what to do.
  • For abdominal(Stomach/tummy) and pelvic (Lower part of stomach) scans you may be asked to have a special drink before the scan. This helps to show up the stomach and bowel more clearly.
  • For pelvic scans(Lower abdomen), some fluid may be put into your rectum (back passage).
  • For pelvic scans, women may be asked to insert a tampon into the vagina.
  • Sometimes a dye (contrast medium) is injected into the bloodstream via a vein in your arm. The dye may give you a flushing feeling and an odd taste in your mouth, which soon goes.

The CT scan itself is painless. You cannot see or feel X-rays. You will be asked to stay as still as possible, as otherwise the scan pictures may be blurred. The scan can take between 5-30 minutes, depending on which part (or parts) of the body is being scanned.

Can anybody be with me during the scan?

Because the scan uses X-rays, other people should not be in the same room. The operator controls the movement of the couch and scanner from behind a screen or in a separate control room. (This protects them from repeated exposure to X-rays.) However, you can talk to them, usually via an intercom, and you will be observed at all times on a monitor. A mild sedative may be offered if you are particularly anxious.

What can I expect after the scan?

You can return to your normal activities as soon as the scan is over. However, if you had a sedative for the scan, you will need someone to accompany you home. You will not be able to drive until the effect of the sedative wears off. ??The pictures from the scan are studied by an X-ray doctor (radiologist) who then prepares a report.

Note: the information below is a general guide only. The arrangements, and the way tests are performed, may vary between different centers. Always follow the instructions given by your doctor or local hospital.

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