Computed Tomography (CT)
Computed Tomography (CT), formerly known as a CAT scan, uses X-ray and computer equipment to produce cross-sectional images of body structures, tissues, and organs. CT imaging provides the unique ability to visualize soft tissue, bones, muscle, internal organs, and blood vessels.
What are some common uses of CT?
- Planning and proper administration of radiation treatments for tumors.
- Guiding biopsies and other minimally invasive procedures.
- Planning surgery.
- Measuring bone mineral density for the detection of osteoporosis.
- Quick identification of injuries to the liver, spleen, kidneys, spine, head, or other internal organs in cases of trauma.
Preventative Medical Screenings
- CT Screening - Abdomen: Used to detect unsuspected abnormalities of liver, kidney, gall bladder, or adrenal glands.
- CT Screening - Cardiac Scoring: Used to detect calcific plaque and help determine risk of coronary artery disease.
- CT Screening - Lung: Formal academic studies have documented potential value in detecting lung cancer at earlier stages, when the cancer can still be surgically removed.
- CT Screening - Pelvis: Used to detect asymptomatic, unsuspected abnormalities of bowel, ovaries, prostate gland, or bladder.
- Virtual Colonoscopy: CT is a non-invasive screening method for colon cancer and other bowel diseases.
Patients should understand that many insurance companies do not reimburse for these screening examinations. All screening tests will be performed without administration of intravenous or oral contrast. It is recommended that patients obtain a physician's referral before scheduling these exams. Reports will be sent to the patient's doctor, as well as directly to the patient. As with other screening tests, patients should understand that results may be inconclusive, and additional tests may be required. SWDIC does not recommend such screenings as substitutes for more comprehensive exams or studies.
What should I expect during this exam?
A CT examination usually takes between five minutes and half an hour.
- The technologist will position you on the CT table. Pillows will be used to help you keep still in the proper position during the scan. The table will move slowly into the CT scanner opening. Depending on the area of the body being examined, the increments of movement may be very small and almost undetectable or large enough to feel the motion.
- To enhance the visibility of certain tissues or blood vessels, use of different contrast materials may be required. Depending on the type of examination, these materials may be injected through an IV, swallowed, or administered by rectal contrast. Before receiving the contrast material, you should inform the radiologist or technologist of the following:
- Any allergies, especially to medications or iodine.
- Any information regarding a history of diabetes, asthma, kidney problems, heart, or thyroid conditions. These conditions may indicate a higher risk of reaction to the contrast material or potential problems with eliminating the material from your system after the exam.
- You will be alone in the room during your scan; however, you can communicate with your technologist at all times through an intercom system, and they will be able to see, hear, and speak with you throughout the entire exam.
What will I experience during this exam?
CT scanning is a painless procedure. Depending on the type of scan needed, individual preparations may differ. Here is an overview of what to expect from the different methods we use to administer contrast materials:
- Mouth: A member of our staff may ask you to drink the contrast material, a liquid that allows the radiologist to better see your stomach, small bowel, and colon. Some patients find the taste slightly unpleasant, but tolerable.
- Enema: For a study of the colon, your exam may require the administration of the contrast material by enema. You will experience a sense of abdominal fullness and may feel an increasing need to expel the liquid.
- IV injection: To accentuate the difference between normal and abnormal tissue in organs, such as the liver or spleen, and to better define the blood vessels and kidneys, a contrast material is commonly injected into a vein. You may feel flushed and may have a metallic taste in your mouth, which should pass in a minute or two. In very rare cases, you may experience a mild allergic reaction. SWDIC has registered nurses on staff at all times.