Body CT

Computed tomography, more commonly known as a CT or CAT scan, is a diagnostic medical imaging test. Like traditional x-rays, it produces multiple images or pictures of the inside of the body.

Prior to most CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis, it is important to drink an oral contrast agent that contains dilute barium. This contrast agent helps the radiologist identify the gastrointestinal tract (stomach, small and large bowel), detect abnormalities of these organs, and to separate these structures from other structures within the abdomen. The patient will be asked to drink slightly less than a quart spread out over 1.5 to 2 hours.

Symptoms include itching and difficulty breathing or swallowing. If contrast leaked under the skin, the patient should look for increased redness, swelling, or pain. Patients will often be asked to come back the next day so their skin can be checked. There are no side effects of the exam itself, but patients who have multiple CT scans should discuss the radiation exposure with their physician.

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Computed Tomography (CT)

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How should I prepare?

Radiologists and radiation oncologists often use the CT examination to:

You may need a follow-up exam. If so, your doctor will explain why. Sometimes a follow-up exam further evaluates a potential issue with more views or a special imaging technique. It may also see if there has been any change in an issue over time. Follow-up exams are often the best way to see if treatment is working or if a problem needs attention.

Body CT

CT Scan

A CT scan generates images that can be reformatted in multiple planes. It can even generate three-dimensional images. Your doctor can review these images on a computer monitor, print them on film or via a 3D printer, or transfer them to a CD or DVD.

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What will I experience during and after the procedure?

A conventional x-ray exam directs a small amount of radiation through the body part under examination. A special electronic image recording plate captures the image. Bones appear white on the x-ray. Soft tissue, such as the heart or liver, shows up in shades of gray. Air appears black.

With CT scanning, several x-ray beams and electronic x-ray detectors rotate around you. These measure the amount of radiation being absorbed throughout your body. Sometimes, the exam table will move during the scan. A special computer program processes this large volume of data to create two-dimensional cross-sectional images of your body. The system displays the images on a computer monitor. CT imaging is sometimes compared to looking into a loaf of bread by cutting the loaf into thin slices. When the computer software reassembles the image slices, the result is a very detailed multidimensional view of the body’s interior.

CT Scan(CAT Scan, Computerized Axial Tomography)

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In some patients, contrast agents may cause allergic reactions, or in rare cases, temporary kidney failure. IV contrast agents should not be administered to patients with abnormal kidney function since they may induce a further reduction of kidney function, which may sometimes become permanent.

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What does the CT equipment look like?

If a patient is going to have a contrast injection, he or she should not have anything to eat or drink for a few hours before the CT scan because the injection may cause stomach upset. To receive the contrast injection, an IV is inserted into the arm just prior to the scan. The contrast then enters the body through the IV.

The reaction to the contrast is almost always immediate, so it is very rare to have a reaction after the patient leaves the facility. However, if a patient thinks they are having a delayed reaction to the contrast, they should call the facility where they had the exam.

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A CT scan in a pregnant woman poses no known risks to the baby if the area of the body being imaged isn’t the abdomen or pelvis. In general, if imaging of the abdomen and pelvis is needed, doctors prefer to use exams that do not use radiation, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound. However, if neither of those can provide the answers needed, or there is an emergency or other time constraint, CT may be an acceptable alternative imaging option.

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How does it work

CT scanners first began to be installed in 1974. CT scanners have vastly improved patient comfort because a scan can be done quickly. Improvements have led to higher-resolution images, which assist the doctor in making a diagnosis. For example, the CT scan can help doctors to visualize small nodules or tumors, which they cannot see with a plain film X-ray.

The CT scan is interpreted by a radiologist, a medical doctor trained to interpret various X-ray studies. The results are forwarded to the doctor. How soon the doctor receives the report depends on the imaging center where the study is performed.

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