Health

What to expect: CT scan

Everything you need to know before a CT scan, or CAT scan

By Samantha Willis, Multi-modality technologist

A CT scan is also known as a CAT scan. The best way to describe it is as a rotating X-ray machine. While an X-ray will take one picture, a CT will take many pictures while it rotates around you, allowing you and your health care providers to see your body on a 3D plane.

What is a CT scan used for?

CT scans can help visualize the vascular and gastrointestinal (GI) systems, such as the heart and bowels.

Do CT scans use contrast dye?

The majority of our studies use intravenous (IV) contrast to illuminate parts of the body on the scan, while some exams will have you drinking the contrast solution. Oral contrast will highlight anything in the GI system as it flows through your body, and IV contrast is used in vascular system scans to highlight path of blood flow.

What to expect after check-in for a CT scan

After registration, you’ll go to a prep bay, review screening forms and measure blood pressure and some other vitals. It’s at this point that an IV will be started, if needed.

Next, you’ll be brought into the room where the CT scan will take place, and you’ll lie down comfortably on a table. You can often wear your own clothes for theses scans, but people who are wearing an underwire bra might be asked to remove it so that it doesn’t affect the scanned images.

How long does a CT scan last?

For CT exams, you’re typically on the table for about five minutes. Most of that time is spent on preparing you and the machine for scanning — the scanning process even less time.

What happens after a CT scan?

Images will be sent to a radiologist, who develops a report that’s sent to your health care provider and your MyChart account for review. 

 

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