What is a CT Scan?

Computed Tomography (CT), is a fast and painless diagnostic tool, which uses X-rays to take multiple slice images of the body. It is often used for imaging of the brain, chest, abdomen, spine and extremities. Often patients are given oral or intravenous contrast agents which increase the detail and clarity of the images taken. CT scans provide a form of imaging known as thin slice cross-sectional imaging that enables the radiologist to define structures in the body. When you have your scan, the radiographer will call you in for your scan and may ask you to change into a gown. We will then help you lie on the CT table which will move through the CT machine during your scan. You may be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time during the scan. You may also require an injection of iodinated contrast. Our staff will go through this with you thoroughly before the scan.

Are there any risks?

A CT scan is a very low-risk procedure. The most common problem is an adverse reaction to intravenous contrast material. Intravenous contrast is usually an iodine-based liquid given in the vein, which makes many organs and structures, such as the kidneys and blood vessels, much more visible on the CT scan. There may be resulting itching, a rash, hives or a feeling of warmth throughout the body. These are usually self-limiting reactions that go away rather quickly. If needed, antihistamines can be given to help relieve the symptoms. A more serious allergic reaction to intravenous contrast is called an anaphylactic reaction. When this occurs, the patient may experience severe hives and/or extreme difficulty in breathing. This reaction is quite rare but is potentially life-threatening if not treated. Medications which may include corticosteroids, antihistamines, and epinephrine can reverse this adverse reaction. Toxicity to the kidneys which can result in kidney failure an extremely rare complication of the intravenous contrast material used in CT scans. People with diabetes, those who are dehydrated, or patients who already have impaired kidney function are most prone to this reaction. The amount of radiation a person receives during a CT scan is minimal. In men and nonpregnant women, it has not been shown to produce any adverse effects. If a woman is pregnant, there may be a potential risk to the fetus, if a woman is pregnant, she should inform her doctor.