CT (CAT Scan)
What is a CT Scan?
A Computed Tomography (CT) scanner is a special x-ray machine combined with a computer that produces cross-sectional images or “slices” of any part of your head or body. Unlike a standard “flat” x-ray image where some structures block others, a CT scan shows structures within each slice on a three-dimensional plane. As a result, the radiologist can see your entire anatomy.
The CT scan machine is open around you, does not touch you and is not confining. It should not be confused with a MRI scanner that is more of a tunnel-type structure. Even patients who suffer with claustrophobia find CT scans to be fairly simple, fast, and easy.
What to Expect
A scan can take anywhere from 10 minutes to ½ hour to complete. During that time, you will be asked to lie very still on a table that moves in and out of a round opening called a “gantry”. The ring inside the gantry contains an x-ray tube and receptors mounted to the opposite side. As the x-ray tube moves around you, the receptors on the opposite side measure the amount of x-ray that is absorbed. These measurements are fed into a computer that produces the images on a video screen for the radiologist to view.
Since x-rays cannot penetrate metal you may be asked to remove any jewelry, glasses, or clothing which has zippers or snaps, etc. You may be asked to put on a hospital gown or move any metal out of the area we are scanning. You may wish to wear a sweat suit or clothing without metal parts so that you don’t have to change into a gown.
How to Prepare for your CT Scan
For your CT scan, we ask that you have no solid food for at least 4 hours prior to your exam and that you avoid dairy products.
If you have any medications that you normally take, then you should go ahead and take them as prescribed. If you have to have food with your medication, you could have a small amount of dry toast or crackers in addition to clear liquids.
Most patients, who are having a scan of their abdomen or pelvis, may be asked to drink an oral contrast media such as Omnipaque, Volumen, or Readi-CAT. This contrast helps to outline your stomach and intestines so that they can be clearly identified and to distinguish them from any abnormality. We ask that you arrive 1 hour ahead of your scheduled time to drink this contrast.
Many patients who have a CT scan will need to have a special type of iodinated x-ray contrast injected into their veins during the test. This IV contrast helps to highlight certain structures in your body or brain. It also helps to visualize veins and arteries and certain tissues, as well as your urinary tract (kidneys, ureter, and bladder).
If you have an allergy to iodine or x-ray contrast, please inform us or your doctor as soon as possible as premedication may be required. Also please inform us if you are pregnant, diabetic, or have a history of kidney insufficiencies. Some patients may require kidney function lab work within the past 90 days prior to your CT scan (see table 1). Your doctor’s office can fax this lab work to 434-982-0742 or you may bring a copy with you to your appointment. This lab work should include creatinine and GFR values.
Table 1: Current labs are needed for the following patients:
- Greater than 70 years of age.
- History or indication of renal insufficiency.
- History of diabetes.
- History of paraproteinemia syndromes such as multiple myeloma.
- History of collagen vascular disease.
- History of vascular disease (CAD, MI, carotid disease, PVD, or known visceral artery disease).
Once Your Test is Complete
After your CT scan has been completed, you will be able to resume all of your normal activities. There should not be any side effects to keep you from doing this and you will be able to drive. If you get home and have any further questions, please contact Radiology at 434-924-9400 or 877-817-3865 and ask for a Radiology Nurse or for the Radiologist on call.
Following any contrasted CT scan, we recommend that you drink plenty of water. This will help your kidneys flush the contrast from your body and prevent you from becoming dehydrated.
Getting the Results
Once the Radiologist reviews your CT scan on their computer screen, they will complete and send a report to the ordering physician. That doctor will in turn discuss the results with you at your next appointment or they will call you. You may request a CD of your scanned images by filling out a film release form given to you by our front desk and must provide a picture ID. You also can call our Image Management department at 434-243-6700.
If you want to access your images from home, you can go to MyChart by visiting mychartuva.com and clicking “Sign Up for MyChart” to receive an activation code. For questions about signing up, or to obtain your activation code, call 434-243-2500. If your referring physician has uploaded your results, you will be able to view them on MyChart.
Questions or Concerns
Contact the Radiology and Medical Imaging department at 434-924-9400.