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CT Scan

What are CT Scans?

A CT Scan is used to look at the internal structures of the body. Both soft tissues (eg brain, liver, kidneys, lungs) and bone can be seen. The images are cross-sections of the body, but the CT computer can generate a great variety of images, depending on what the doctor is looking for.

 

How is a CT Scan Done?

CT scanners are very specialised x-ray machines. As you move through the scanner, x-rays are taken and a powerful computer builds a very detailed cross-section image of the internal structure of the part of the body being examined.

To enhance the images, you may be given an injection of x-ray contrast, just before or during the scan. This injection highlights the blood supply to the organs of the body. The contrast is given via a small needle in the arm or hand. The needle is about the size of that used when blood tests are taken. The injection contains an iodine compound. It is important to tell the CT staff if you have any allergy to x-ray contrast. The injection may make you feel warm for a few minutes. It may also give you a metallic taste in the mouth. These feelings are quite normal, although many people experience nothing at all.

You may be asked to hold your breath during the scan, but only for about 15 seconds. This is because breathing will blur the images.

CT Machines that North Coast Radiology Group use all have dose reduction measures in place which are appropriate for your examination, age and body habitus.

 

Commonly Requested CT Scans

CT Scans are commonly requested for the following areas of the body

  • Head, Sinuses
  • Neck / Soft Tissue
  • Chest
  • Abdomen/Pelvis; General or Urinary Tract
  • Spine, Extremities eg hairline fracture of a foot bone

Specialist Studies are also requested for example:

  • Angiography of major blood vessels
  • Interventions eg Biopsies, spinal injections for pain relief
  • CT Coronary Angiography and CT Coronary Calcium Scoring
  • Dental scans for implant or dental nerve position
  • CT Intravenous Pyelography (IVP) to examine the “urinary tract” (kidneys, ureters and bladder).

CT Preparation – General Background Information

 

Preparation for a CT depends on the area of the body being examined.

You will be advised what preparation applies to your examination when your appointment is booked and confirmed.

You may be asked to fast (no solid food) for 2-4hrs and to drink 1ltr of water 1.5hrs hours before the procedure if it is likely you will need a contrast injection. You may also be asked to arrive 1 hour before the scan to drink a dilute gastrografin and cordial liquid, which outlines the bowel. We may substitute a very dilute barium solution for this.

At the time of booking your appointment and on arrival you may be asked about your medical history (including any allergies or medications you are on) to help ensure you receive the correct preparation.  You will be asked to fill out a form indicating this history.

 

Please refer below for more general information regarding preparation for different body regions. The downloads tab may also have specific preparation information available.

If the scan is of the head, arms or legs, you are generally not required to undress, but may be asked to remove jewellery, hairclips, dentures etc. These items show up too well on CT, causing artifacts (which degrade the diagnostic quality of the images), and can be confusing to interpret or hide abnormalities. For most other scans, you will be asked to remove most of your clothes, but may keep wearing your underpants. You will be asked to change into a gown.

 

Most CT appointments are for 15 minutes, although for many scans, you will only be on the CT table for 5 to 10 minutes. The rest of the time is for explaining the procedure, getting you changed, getting you on/off the table etc. and building the images from your scan. Complex studies may require additional time after your examination to reconstruct your images and impact reporting time.

 

After the Examination

You may eat and drink as normal. If you have had an x-ray contrast injection, there should be no lasting effects, however you will be asked to stay 10 minutes or more so we can monitor your body’s response to the contrast.  If you did receive an injection, continue to drink plenty of water for a few hours after your examination. In the unlikely event you experience anything unusual following the scan, please tell one of the staff so our doctors can attend to you.

 

Additional Information Preparation for Specific Body Regions

 

Relevant to All Regions

If you are advised to fast (ie no food) you still need to ensure you are well hydrated. It is recommended to drink 1ltr water 1.5hrs prior to your appointment. And, after your examination to also drink ideally 1ltr water within a few hours.

 

Angiography/Neck/Chest/Abdomen

Do not eat for 2hrs before appointment. You should drink water to stay well hydrated; 1 ltr of water 1-1 1/2 hours before appointment.

Not only does this help with the cannulation of your veins, it provides less strain on your body. You will also be asked to keep fluids up after your examination to help flush any contrast from your system.

 

 

Abdomen/Pelvis/CT IVP

Do not eat or drink for 2hrs before appointment. Drink 1 ltr of water 1.5 hours before appointment. A full bladder is not necessary.

Not only does this help with the cannulation of your veins, it provides less strain on your body. You will also be asked to keep fluids up after your examination to help flush any contrast from your system.

 

Head/Sinuses/Spine/Extremities

No preparation is necessary

 

Coronary Angiogram /Colonoscopy

Special preparation is required. Special instructions will be provided when booking your appointment

For detailed patient information and preparation click here Patient Information CT Coronary Angiography

More detailed information on a comprehensive range of CT examinations, as well as other types of Radiology examinations can be researched on the Inside Radiology Industry website here

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