The cross-sectional images generated during a CT scan can be reformatted in multiple planes and can even generate three-dimensional images. These images can be viewed on a computer monitor and transmitted electronically to your referring doctor.
CT images of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels typically provide greater detail than traditional X-rays, particularly of soft tissues and blood vessels.
Using specialised equipment and expertise to create and interpret CT scans of the body, radiologists can more easily diagnose cancers, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, appendicitis, trauma and musculoskeletal disorders. Source: RadiologyInfo
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What are some of the common uses of the procedure?
- One of the best and fastest tools for examining the chest, abdomen and pelvis because it provides detailed, cross-sectional views of all types of tissue.
- Used to determine severe injuries from incidents such as motor vehicle accidents.
- Performed on patients with acute symptoms such as abdominal pain or difficulty breathing.
- Often the best method of detecting many different cancers, including lung, liver, kidney and pancreatic cancer, since the image allows a physician to confirm the presence of a tumour and determine its size, precise location and the extent of the tumour’s involvement with other nearby tissue.
- An examination plays a significant role in detecting, diagnosing, and treating vascular diseases that can lead to stroke, kidney failure, or even death.
How should I prepare for the procedure?
You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours beforehand, especially if a contrast material will be used in your exam. You should inform your physician of all medications you are taking and of any allergies you may have. Suppose you have a known allergy to contrast material or “dye”. In that case, your doctor may prescribe medication (usually a steroid) to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. These medications generally need to be taken 12 hours before administering contrast material. To avoid unnecessary delays, contact your doctor before the exact time of your exam. Some medications need to be stopped before your exam.
Women should always inform their physician and the CT radiographer if there is any possibility that they may be pregnant. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure. Metal objects, including jewellery, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins, may affect the CT images and should be removed before your examination. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work. Women will be asked to remove bras containing metal underwires. You may be asked to remove any piercings, if possible. You should inform the radiographer if you have a pacemaker device in the upper chest. This is usually not an issue for cardiac CT exams.
The radiographer begins by positioning you on the CT examination table, usually lying flat on your back or, less commonly, on your side or on your stomach. Straps and pillows may be used to help you maintain the correct position and to help you remain still during the examination. You may be requested to raise your arms over your head depending on the part of the body being scanned. Modern CT scanners are so fast that they can scan through large sections of the body in just a few seconds and even faster in small children. Reconstruction of data may take a few minutes, with the report following. The CT scanner technique will be adjusted to children’s size and the area of interest to reduce the radiation dose. For some CT exams, a contrast material is used to enhance visibility in the area of the body being studied. If contrast material is used, it will be swallowed, injected through an intravenous line (IV) or administered by enema, depending on the type of examination.
The CT examination is usually completed within 30 minutes. The portion requiring intravenous contrast injection usually lasts only 10 to 30 seconds. CT exams are generally painless, fast and easy. Though the scanning itself causes no pain, there may be some discomfort from remaining still for several minutes and placing an IV. If you have a hard time staying still, are very nervous or anxious or have chronic pain, you may find a CT exam stressful. If an intravenous contrast material is used, you will feel a pinprick when the needle is inserted into your vein. You will likely have a warm, flushed sensation during the injection of the contrast materials and a metallic taste in your mouth that lasts for at most a minute or two.
When you enter the CT scanner room, special light lines may be seen projected onto your body and are used to ensure that you are properly positioned. With modern CT scanners, you will hear only slight buzzing, clicking, and whirring sounds as the CT scanner revolves around you during the imaging process.