CT scan

A CT scan is also known as computed tomography or simply CAT scan. It is a medical device that uses x-rays to produce multiple cross-sectional images of the head or body. The computer can manipulate the images, changing the plane or even creating three dimensional images. Doctors can view the images on a computer monitor, on x-ray film or on CD or DVD.

A CT scan is very sensitive and can show images of soft tissue, internal organs, blood vessels and bones, especially if it is used with an IV contrast that outlines the blood vessels and some tissues.

CT scans are used to diagnose heart disease, cancer, appendicitis, infections, musculoskeletal disorders and trauma.

In preparation for a CT scan, you should wear comfortable clothing. You may be asked to wear a gown.
 
Remove metal objects, including hairpins, dentures, eyeglasses, and jewelry because it can affect the way the CT scan images look like. Contrast material may be used so you may have an IV in your arm or hand.

Tell the radiologist if you have any allergies, especially to contrast dye. Steroids may have to be given 12 hours before getting contrast dye if you have an allergy to contrast dye.

The CT scanner is a large machine with a short tunnel through the middle of it.
 
The narrow examination table is designed to go through the hole with you in it. X-rays are taken in the tunnel and a computer arranges the x-ray images so that they form cross-sectional images. A technician will monitor the scanner in a different room. You will be able to talk to the technician via a microphone and speaker.

CT scanning is a lot like other x-ray evaluations. It utilizes x-rays which are absorbed in different ways and this allows different body parts to show up on the film.

Bones are white and soft tissue is varying shades of gray. Air shows up black.
 
The CT scanner utilizes many beams of x-ray energy that rotate around you. The table will move at various times in the study so that the beam of x-ray energy follows a spiral pattern. A computer processes the information and creates the cross-sectional images of the body.

The end result is a detailed image of what is going on inside the body. Multidetector CT devices, also called multi-slice CT scanners make very thin slices out of the information that is received so that there will be better resolution.

Modern CT scanners are extremely fast so the patient is very comfortable during the short examination. This is especially good for children having a CT scan. The average CT scan time is less than 30 minutes with the part involving contrast dye lasts less than 30 seconds.

The contrast dye makes you feel warm all over and gives you the sensation that you are urinating when in fact, you are not.

The CT images will be interpreted by a skilled radiologist who will look at the images and send them in a report to your primary physician, who will talk to you about the results.
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