CT Scans: Diagnostic Power


computer tomography or CT scan uses a rotating x-ray stream with opposing sensors spiraling around a patient’s body to create detailed images of the patient’s interior cross sections for medical diagnostic purposes, though CT scans are also used for other scientific and diagnostic purposes such as archaeological ones.

The CT machine takes series of two dimensional cross sections of the human body, potentially in multiple planes. The computer can then use these to construct two or three dimensional images of the area under your doctor’s consideration. It has proven especially useful in diagnosing (and thus preventing) heart disease, the number one killer in the United States.

Medical Imaging Center is proud to offer the state-of-the-art multi-slice spiral CT scanning. This imaging allows the radiologist to look at different levels of the body “slice by slice.” The results from this rapid and painless scan can offer you peace of mind for a healthy future.

Other examples include a brain scan, chest, abdominal and pelvis CT scan with or without contrast (oral and/or IV), or renal (kidney) CT scan, the latter looking for calculi or calcium blockages.

I. Preparation for the CT scan

Before coming to Medical Imaging Center,

your attending physician must prescribe a CT scan and provide a letter to our center describing the area and manner of test.

In some cases where the abdomen is being studied, you may be asked to avoid consuming food or drink for perhaps 6 hours before the test. Bismuth products (e.g., Pepto Bismol and similar) interferes with image quality as well, and should be avoided for some hours prior to an abdominal CT scan.

CT scans are taken with or without a contrasting agent or dye as needed. A contrasting agent enhances the image clarity, and in the case of CT scans often consists of an iodine solution, injected intravenously.

Your doctor or a technician will ask you for past history of negative reaction to iodine before administering any contrast agent, and your progress is always monitored. You are encouraged to drink water before and after your exam to help your kidneys remove the contrast from your system. Your physician should provide us with recent BUN and creatinine bloodwork to show that your kidneys are healthy if you are 59.5 years of age or if you are diabetic or have a known kidney disease.

Or a contrast agent like barium solution may be taken orally before a scan, such as when examining the colon or abdomen.

II. Testing procedures

Patients are asked to remove most clothing materials and put on a robe provided. Jewelry and metal object must be removed to avoid distorting the CT images. If a dye or contrasting agent is to be used, it is administered immediately or shortly before scanning.

Patients normally lie on their backs on a platform. Technicians assist patients in feeling comfortable. The CT machine is then be set rotating in its housing. Then the platform with patient on it is slid though the hole on the middle of the rotating CT machine.

Patients are often told to lie still and hold their breath for brief periods while the CT machine is scanning to make sure the images are not blurred. This is especially true where the scans include areas of the body that move with breathing.

Technicians will ask patients to hold their breath and when to breathe; patients may mention any difficulties they may have holding their breath or with feeling comfortable during the procedure, which in itself is painless.

III. Risks

Any risks associated with the CT scan are concerned with exposure to radiation, which is many times the exposure from a normal single x-ray, though CT exposure to x-ray radiation is also variable depending on type of CT image taken and time of exposure. Time of exposure has been decreasing as CT technology improves and speed of computer reading of scanning increases. Your doctor weighs the risks of exposure to x-ray radiation with the benefits CT scanning provides in accurately and speedily diagnosing your condition.

Disclaimer: This page and website are intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice.

–John Loebel, RT(N) and Dr Gregory Goldstein, MD

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