CT scan

CT-Scan is a Computed Tomography Scan used by the doctors to look at the normal or abnormal body parts of the patient’s body. It involves a combination of X-rays, which produce various detailed and sliced (Cross-sectional) images of the body organs, bones, and tissues. These images created by the X-rays can be seen on the monitor and the images captured are known as tomogram. CT-Scan produces more detailed pictures as compared to an X-ray test. There are many types of CT-Scans done for different parts of the body like:

  • Head or cranial CT-Scan
  • CT paranasal sinuses
  • Abdominal and pelvis CT-Scan
  • Chest CT-Scan
  • Thoracic, cervical and lumbosacral spine CT-Scan
  • CT angiographies such as cardiac, pulmonary, upper and lower limbs as well as neck vessels
  • CT enterography

Sometimes, CT-Scans are performed using a dye or a contrast that is administered into the patient and this further helps in outlining the body organs properly to have a detailed analysis of the patient's problem. CT-Scans are painless and assist in creating a very detailed picture.


Why it's done? What are the risks? How to prepare for the procedure? Expected results from the procedure FAQ Section

The doctor advises CT-Scan to diagnose multiple medical conditions. Some of these conditions and problems are listed below.

  • Diagnose bone diseases such as fractures and tumors of bone
  • Detect muscular disorders
  • To locate sinus problems in a patient e.g. maxillary sinus and conditions like spondylitis.
  • To point exact locations of blood clots, tumors, excessive fluid and infections
  • To diagnose internal bleeding and internal injuries after any road accident.
  • Monitoring or detection of issues like lung nodules, emphysema, heart diseases, liver masses, cancerous lesions.
  • To guide various procedures like biopsies, in surgeries and radiation therapy.
  • To examine the progress of a treatment
  • To check the bone density and related problems like osteoporosis.
  • To examine normal function and structures of various organs in the body including shoulder, heart, spine, head, abdomen, chest knee etc.

The person undergoing a CT-Scan is exposed to more radiations as compared to a patient in a normal X-Ray. These radiations generated from CT-Scan have a very small potential of causing a risk of cancer. However, CT-Scan still has multiple benefits over an X-ray. Although, a low dose of radiation is given to the patients, however, there are newer technologies coming up which will need lesser amount of radiations to capture images.

The pregnant mothers must inform the doctor beforehand as the unborn child is very sensitive and it is better not to expose the fetus to the radiations. In such cases, the doctor might suggest going for some other imaging techniques such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or ultrasound. These techniques are safer than CT-Scan as they does not use any radiations.

Sometimes the doctor may administer a contrast/dye intravenously (into the veins) in the arm of the patient. The contrast is an iodine-based liquid. This helps in creating highlighted images of the body organs or tissues at the areas of concern. Injecting these contrasts before the CT-Scan may sometimes cause some of the following problems or allergic reactions:

  • Skin Rashes
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Hives
  • Warm feeling
  • Metallic taste in the mouth

In some patients, some other symptoms, as mentioned below, might also be observed.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Kidney diseases
  • Constipation
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Feeling of nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Hypertension or hypotension

 

In some rare cases, the contrast may cause serious and life-threatening problems. Hence, it is advised to drink lots of water to remove the contrast from the body after the scan. Patient is also advised to inform the doctor beforehand, if he/she has had any reactions from the contrast before.

The doctor or the nurse will explain all the details of the procedure to the patient. Some of these details might include the following:

 

  • The person undergoing the test is asked to change into a hospital gown or take-off certain clothes depending upon the part of the body to be scanned.
  • The patient is asked to remove all the jewelry and is prohibited from carrying any electronic or metal objects inside as this may result in distortions in the images.
  • The patient is advised to avoid eating anything for a few hours before the CT-Scan.
  • Children might be given some sedatives to stay still and calm in order to avoid any blurring of the scanned images.
  • The patient is asked to lie down on the sliding scan table, which slides into a circular hollow shaped machine structure.
  • Sometimes, the doctor may inject a dye or contrast into the patient’s arm intravenously (into the veins). This is done to highlight the blood vessels, organs and various other soft tissues of the patient’s body. However, as contrast is excreted through the kidneys, the kidney function needs to evaluated before contrast administration.
  • The contrast can be given in multiple ways to the patient as mentioned below.

    • In the form of an injection given intravenously to find out problems in the liver, gallbladder, blood vessels or urinary tract. This may sometimes lead to metallic taste in the mouth or allergic reactions.
    • Orally, if the scan is needed to be done for stomach or esophagus. The contrast will be in a liquid form and might lead to unpleasant taste in the mouth.
    • A contrast may be inserted through the patient's rectum to examine the intestines carefully. This may, however, feel uncomfortable and give a bloated feeling.

 

 

During the Procedure:

CT scan procedure is completely painless. When the patient lies down on the sliding scan table, the table slides into a hollow, circular shaped machine structure (donut-like) known as a gantry. In case of a head CT-Scan, patient’s head is placed in a special cradle to hold the head firmly. The table will move in and out of the gantry slowly during the procedure. The gantry also moves in a circular motion around the patient’s body in order to get several cross-sectional images (sliced images of the body). Every rotation creates CT-Scan images. The person undergoing the CT-Scan may be asked to hold the breath for a few seconds during the procedure in order to prevent the blurring of the scanned images. The technician will be sitting and operating the CT-Scan machine from the adjacent room. The patient can be seen clearly from a transparent window in the room. The person inside the scanning room can talk to the technician through an intercom. The technician captures the images on the monitor.

 

After the procedure:

  • The person is asked to change into normal clothes after the test. Following the scan, the patient is asked to go home and resume performing normal routine activities. The patient on fasting can then drink and eat normally.
  • The results are interpreted and a report is prepared by the radiologist. This report is then handed over to the concerned doctor.
  • The doctor discusses the report of the CT-Scan in detail with the patient.
  • The patients who had been given a contrast before the CT-Scan procedure are advised to drink a lot of water in order to flush out all the dye or contrast from the body through urination. This will save the kidneys from developing any reaction.

The scan images are stored in the computer and can be viewed by the radiologist or doctor from the monitor directly. The reports and the images of the scan can be made available within 24 hours. The doctor in detail will discuss the results with the patient. If the report is normal, it means that the organs and other tissues in the body are healthy and fit and are functioning normally. There is no sign of any tumor, fractures or any other abnormality in the body organs and tissues. However, if the report is abnormal, it means that there is some abnormality detected, which might be structural or functional. In such cases, the doctor may either prescribe some medications or discuss the related treatment options. Sometimes, if a doctor is unclear about the CT-Scan reports because of unclear images in the scan or not sure of the problem detected, then some more tests may be advised to attain certainty.

Q1. Is it necessary to bring somebody along to drive home after the CT-scan?

A1. The CT-Scan procedure is painless and does not affect the driving ability of any person. Hence, it is not necessary to bring a companion along for the scan.

 

Q2. Is it mandatory to get a doctor’s prescription for getting CT-Scan done?

A2. It is important to get a referral or prescription from the doctor for undergoing a CT-Scan so that CT scanning can be modified according to requirement of the physician. The doctor needs to examine the patient carefully and check for all the details before advising a person for CT-Scan. Also it is important to tell the doctor about pregnancy or any allergic problems before the scan.

 

Q3. Is the person admitted to the hospital after the CT-Scan?

A3. CT-Scan can be done in the out-patient facility of Radiology Department. The procedure takes around 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Hence, the patient is not admitted in the hospital and can go back home after the procedure is completed. Sometimes, if a contrast is given to the patient during the procedure, then the patient might feel nauseated and is asked to sit or lie down for some time.  In case of a child, sometimes a sedative is given to make the child stay still and calm, which might have an effect even after the procedure. In such scenario the child is made to rest until he is fit to walk.

 

Q4. Is it allowed to bring a companion along into the CT-Scan room?

A4. The CT- Scan uses radiations, which should not be taken unnecessarily. Hence, it recommended not to take any companion into the CT-Scan room.

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