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    My doctor ordered a CT Scan for me. What is a CT Scan?

    Posted by Ravi Sohal on Fri, Nov 14, 2008
    CT scan machineCT stands for Computed Tomography. CT scans (aka CAT scans) are medical imaging tests that physicians use to discover, treat, and monitor disease. They use ionizing radiation and computers to create images of internal organs for a physician Radiologist to interpret.

    An CT scan can be used to image nearly every part of the body. CTs are very good at evaluating internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas and brain. They are also used to generate 3 dimensional images of bones such as the spine, ankle, and wrist. These 3D images assist in treatment and surgical planning.

    CT is a relatively new technology that has rapidly advanced along with computing power. There are tens of millions of CT scans done every year. Here are some commonly ordered CT scans and the sort of disease they are tailored to look for:

    • CT Liver -- tumors, cysts, and cirrhosis of the liver
    • CT Spine --degnerative disease (arthritis), fractures, bone tumors
    • CT Brain -- stroke, tumors, bleeds, skull fractures
    • CT Kidneys -- kidney stones, tumors, cysts, blockage (hydronephrosis)

    What to do before your CT scan:

    It helps to be prepared in advance of your appointment time. You will need to get a Radiology referral or prescription from your doctor. Check to make sure the facility you choose takes your insurance plan and your plan has authorized the CT. Get preparation instructions from the facility’s staff in advance. Many CT scans require dye/contrast.  Let the facility know if you have any kidney problems, allergies or are on medication. Although you should follow your doctor’s advice, you can choose a local imaging center to perform your CT test. Our Radiology Shopping tool will help you find a Radiology center, look up prices, and learn more about your local imaging services (if you don’t find an imaging center in your area, please let us know).

    What to expect during and after your CT scan:

    • The CT scan appointment may take up to 1 hour. Plan accordingly.
    • Many CT scan tests will require a dye/contrast injection. An IV is placed and the dye is injected while the scanner takes pictures.
    • An CT scan uses radiation, so you will be alone in the CT scan room.
    • You may need to take a film or CD copy of your CT scan to your doctor.
    • A physician Radiologist will interpret the CT. A report is sent to your doctor.

    Have you had any good (or bad) experiences with a CT? Is there a center you’d recommend? Leave your comments below.

    (photo credit: Duncan Creamer)

    Tags: , , ,


    I have a relative due for a cat scan as he has lung cancer.He cannot lie on his back,and the last Cat scan caused anxiety and a panic attack so it was aborted.Any suggestions ?Sedation?..please advise

    posted @ Sunday, December 28, 2008 5:30 AM by dawn

    Hi Dawn, the key is to talk to his doctor and the Radiology facility in advance of his next appointment. His doctor may prescribe him a mild sedative to help him relax. The Radiology facility will also work with him in getting through the test as quick as possible. Any words of encouragement you can give him and perhaps accompany him to the scan will also help.

    posted @ Sunday, December 28, 2008 5:48 AM by Ravi Sohal

    I am due to-day for a ct scan and I am dreading it not sure that I will be able to go through with it yet

    posted @ Friday, February 27, 2009 7:05 AM by Pat Bailey

    I had a severe allergic reaction after having 4 ct scans in a week for an intestinal blockage. I had massive hives from head to toe. What is in the contract dye that would cause an allergic reaction such as this?

    posted @ Wednesday, April 15, 2009 9:46 AM by JanBennett

    im scared that the cancer doctor will ask me to do another ct-scan ive been cancer free for 3 years now im trying to lose weight so i can have the bag off from my stomach, but if i take the ct-scan im scared that my right elbow will blister up always the same spot its been 3 times im scared again anyone know what i should do? thanks bed

    posted @ Thursday, November 19, 2009 8:27 PM by debbie

    I am being scheduled to have a CT scan of my kidneys. I have a terrible phoebia of having to drink contrast. In order to have the proper CT w/contrast will I have to drink barium contrast? 

    posted @ Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8:42 PM by Kathleen

    my dad had a ct Dec 27,2009. He had to drink to contrast. Later he vomitted and they suctioned him.I wonder if they gave him the injection,because he vomitted.He never made it out of ct. They said his heart failed. I lost my dad 2 days after christmas, never knowing what really happened

    posted @ Saturday, February 27, 2010 7:56 AM by Mindy

    a ct scan was done on pt arrival to hospital, stoke was suspected/confirmed cost 2,5000. pt transfered another ct scan was done 250.00 same reading. I SUSPECT FRAUD. how can I prove scan did not occur pt died

    posted @ Sunday, February 28, 2010 11:48 AM by Elsa comulada

    Had a chest CT scan w/contrast on Thursday, July 22nd. It was a "non event". The bloodwork and IV went flawlessly (I am what they call a "tough stick" due to teeny, tiny veins) The table was comfortable, the contrast did give me a mild flush (I'm post menopausal and I've had HOT flashes and the dye didn't even come close to one of those!) including the forewarned feeling of urinating. Both were minor and short lived. The actual test was brief and I merrily went on my way. I didn't know what to expect after reading the blogs and all the horror storied contained. One plus to the blogs: No one from the radiologists office told me I had to have only clear liquids for 6 hours. Once I read that in the blogs, I immediately called the practice to confirm. Someone in the office dropped the ball on that. On a scale of 1-10 with childbirth being a 10, this procedure was a  
    -8. Really!

    posted @ Saturday, July 24, 2010 8:52 AM by tracey burns beirise

    i'm due to have a head ct to evaluate the extent of soft tissue lesion on my forehead. 
    can someone explain to me whether it would be painful...

    posted @ Saturday, July 24, 2010 1:29 PM by stephen

    I had my 3rd ct in less then 2 months..Can anyone tell me if they experienced having diarrhea for a few days??? Is this a side effect???

    posted @ Friday, September 03, 2010 11:42 AM by Pat

    Does anyone know if there are oversized mri machines to accomodate large people? I am not looking for an open mri, I want a larger closed machine. Does this exist? In the NY NJ area.

    posted @ Monday, October 04, 2010 9:48 PM by dianne

    Hi Dianne, 
    Try contacting your local university medical center Radiology department. They sometimes can help you find a facility for you. Also check out Doshi Diagnostic imaging center in your area - they have quite a few

    posted @ Monday, October 04, 2010 11:12 PM by Ravi Sohal

    It is important to remember some facts: radiation in your body NEVER goes away. "Lifetime Load" is what is looked at for cancer risk associated with accumulated radiation. A CT (CAT Scan) is equal in the amount of radiation to about 500 (that's right - FIVE HUNDRED)chest x-rays. Many doctors don't even realize this. Recent studies have come with pleas and warnings that ordering CT scans should be done ONLY after careful review of the number of prior CT scans. Unfortunately, many doctors just order them and don't account for your prior CT scans and only add to your risk for cancer due to Lifetime Loads that fall into high-risk for carcinogenic events.  
    I know a young boy that was subjected to 7 CT scans in a 90-day period - or - put another way, he was radiated with the equivalent of 3,500 chest x-rays in a 3 month period. If you were the Mom and Dad, and you knew that -- would you even begin to allow that? There ARE alternatives.

    posted @ Tuesday, November 02, 2010 1:57 AM by Mike

    I didn't know these risks either and I was give 4 CT scans this past week - two with contrast, two without - all of the identical area - chest. 
    I understand the first one, due to chest pain; they were looking for pulmonary embolism. I don't know about the others. 
    NO one explained the risk to me and I would NOT have had the other 3, had I been explained the risks. 
    Does anyone know if having this many in a 72-hour period puts one at higher risk?

    posted @ Monday, February 21, 2011 11:34 AM by Tamera Frank

    My son was recently in a car accident. The next morning he was examined at a local walk-in center because his head hurt and he had very little memory of what transpired after the accident. The physician stated that my son was definitely suffering from post concussion syndrome and sent him for a CT scan. I just received the medical report and the diagnosis says tht my son was diagnosed with a headache (no mention of the concussion). Would a CT scan be ordered for a headache? I do have a note from the physician stating that my son received a concussion in the accident, but again, no mention of it in the medical report.

    posted @ Saturday, March 19, 2011 8:39 AM by Dan Goich

    Yes, CT scans are very frequently done for headache...orders for CT scans touch many hands before they end up with the Radiologist. He/she probably just got a history of "headache". Fortunately, the same scan is performed.

    posted @ Saturday, March 19, 2011 9:13 PM by Ravi Sohal

    A CT Scan is a computed topography of an area of your body. While CT scans are excellent diagnostic tools, one should be aware of the risks. 
    One CT scan is equal to approximately 500 xrays. If a study is done (one with contrast dye and one without), that is actually 2 CT scans, or the equivalent of about 1000 xrays. 
    Radiation load is permanent, and can never be gotten rid of (unless by miracle from God). 
    The New England Journal of Medicine reviewed CT scans and their dangers and stated that about 1/3 of all CT scans ordered by docs in the US are UNNECESSARY. 
    They also say that ONE Ct scan study introduced about the same radiation as that suffered by post Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb victims. 
    It is recommended that people begin to ask for alternate diagnostic tools, such as MRI's and ultrasounds BEFORE allowing a CT scan. 
    AND - NEJM says that docs should never order the same area to be scanned twice. 
    Here's one link that shares info you'll find useful. MRI's are also used with concussions, to determine the extent of damage following an injury. 
    CT scans greatly increase your risk of latent (10-20 years) cancers. It's not a medical malpractice risk to order them, so maybe that's the reason they get ordered so frequently. 
    I would hope that people are not overly afraid of CT scans, because they are great in trauma and head injuries, but it might be worth giving a thought about asking a doc if an MRI or ultrasound might be effective in place of the CT Scan. 
    Here's that link: 
    You can google New England Journal of Medicine on CT scan risks and read that article/review. it's very interesting. 

    posted @ Sunday, March 20, 2011 6:46 AM by Tamera

    i just had a ct scan of my head done this morning i have it on a cd and was wondering if someone could look at it for me, ive been having serious headaches for over 3 weeks and my dr is on vacation til the 5th of next month i cant wait that long to see whats wrong with me im freaked out it may be something serious and i would like to know asap

    posted @ Wednesday, March 23, 2011 5:03 PM by Danielle

    The exam is usually read by the Radiologist within 24-48 hours. You can call the imaging center/hospital and get a copy of your report.

    posted @ Friday, March 25, 2011 3:53 PM by Ravi Sohal


    posted @ Wednesday, May 18, 2011 10:37 AM by Nathan Ventry

    That's very hard question to answer without knowing what body part and why you are getting the scan...

    posted @ Thursday, May 19, 2011 6:07 PM by Ravi Sohal

    I WAS PETRIFIED TO HAVE A CAT SCAN ONLY BECAUSE I READ ALL OF THE TETIMONIES ON THE INTERNET.IF YOU ARE SCHEDULED TO HAVE A Cat scan please believe it is a breeze and only takes a few wiill then see your anxiety was all for nothing.

    posted @ Friday, July 08, 2011 2:06 PM by gordon greenwood

    Due to have a ct scan on abodomen  
    all i can say is That I have experienced a lot worse than a ct scan.. and thank God for the diagnostic tools that we are blessed to have these days

    posted @ Monday, September 19, 2011 8:22 PM by Lex

    lung cat scan for many are necessary and should i just get ultrasound for safer way to diagnose cancer...have had at least 6-8 in the last few years.first every 3 months .now every

    posted @ Monday, September 26, 2011 9:19 AM by joanne

    Had ct scan with and without contrast had IV contrast. Now have diarrhea and my stool is now light yellow

    posted @ Thursday, November 17, 2011 10:30 AM by Sharon

    My Dad is a diabetic patient and also had blood pressure issues. He was asked to go in for a CT scan due to pleural effusion which the doctors suspected to be due to pancreatitis. As soon as he was given the dye he reacted to it and now he is in a coma. Please share any thoughts you may have on this.

    posted @ Sunday, December 11, 2011 8:57 PM by Christopher

    A Doctor ordered both a CAT Scan and an MRI for me in the same day. Why would I need both.

    posted @ Monday, January 07, 2013 5:48 PM by majicman

    I was admitted to the hospital for a-fib issues on 2-11-13. 2 days later the doctor ordered a cat scan. I've had one before when I had kidney stones and I didn't really have any problems. I'm a large person and laying flat on my back is very painful and I can't breath well in that position. The cat scan for the kidney stones slightly had me in a panic because I thought the techs were causually having a conversation and forgot about me in the other room. They brought me a cool towel to calm me down and after a few minutes, I was up and out of the machine. But, this recent cat scan was a whole different story. I was ok initially. The difference, this time I'd be in the machine up to my chin with my hands over my head for atleast 5 min according to the tech. A very helpless position. As the machine slowly guided me in, I broke out in a sweat, I can't breathe as I'm flat on my back again. They took me out so I could calm down and we tried again. The machine started to stall. At that point I'm in full blown panic, crying, I'm embarassed. When I get back to my hospital room they give me an anxiety pill. I was released 2-14-13. Ever since this incident, I can't stop thinking of inclosed spaces and it bothers me like never before. I think if airports have scanning machines that you dont have to lie down in a coffin like environment, then why hasn't technology come up with a better way to get scans. God forbid I ever need an MRI. Forget it !

    posted @ Thursday, February 21, 2013 11:29 AM by Rhonda

    hi ,i have had mutiple ct scans,mri's, pet scans,along with radiation and chemo for my advanced stage cervical cancer.I will continue to need them because that's the only way my cancer can be watched.I trust my team of drs.they are only trying to save my life.I am aware that it isn't good to get that much x-rays or radiation,but if i don't i will die

    posted @ Thursday, April 04, 2013 6:30 AM by

    I had a CT scan on March 28, 2013, the contrast was injected in the tube, I became ill that night with pains all over my body and develop a terrible cold which turned into bronchitis. I told the person administering the dye that I had a slight cough, and he said as long as I did not have cold I would be fine. Well I am not fine as of todate April 14th, 2013 I am still very sick. I am being treated for the bronchitis by my doctor. what else should done to help me with this problem? I am scared to death of what it's doing to my body. I am 70 years.

    posted @ Sunday, April 14, 2013 4:55 PM by Millicent M Howell

    I was in an MVA over half year ago. The officer sad I was conscious after the accident but had problems, I was outside the vehicle when he got there. The ambulance took me to the hospital. Some doctor stated I was belligerent and gave me a sedation. Afterwards I was placed to get a full body cat scan- I prefer alternative medicine, would never go through one in preference. Further more I do not know why my testicles needed to be scanned - if there was injury they would be rushing to save them. Prior in the ambulance I was conscious enough to tell the dr what hurt. Of which piano above left knee and top right shoulder he recorded stating there was no evidence, and that I was belligerent. After waking up from the sedation I did not remember anything yet had scabs on shoulder and knee injured areas bruised, in pain. Slowly began finding things out from personal investigation. The cat scan showed no brain injury. Wanted to know why and how is it that the hospital has the right to radiate my testicles to save them. I am unhappy about the whole situation because it does not make any sense. Why not just scan areas of complaint and not the whole body(my testicles were not bothering me). Is my permission not needed - can I be given a scan sedated as though I was unconscious from an injury and drs I don't remember tried to save me? Please give me an  
    Answer. Thank you ahead of time

    posted @ Sunday, February 02, 2014 1:37 PM by Alex

    get your record from the hospital ASAP, look into this no way you needed that done, they used you as a Guinea pig! IMO

    posted @ Sunday, June 22, 2014 1:53 PM by Catherine Nichols Pogorzelski

    I had a Cat scan done a few days ago no contrast. The reason why I had this test done. I was having headaches in my forehead as much as 3 times a day, I bump into walls, I past out,took a nap then couldn't see when I woke up. I could see walls furniture but could not read, forgetfulness was a big issue. I was in Florida suppose to stay for two weeks. I left a week early because I forgot I was staying for two weeks. When I came home I put the left over money away and forgot where I had put it. My doctors wife called me to say the test was negative. I asked what do I do now she said I don't now Merry Christmas and hung up. So, what do I do now?

    posted @ Sunday, December 21, 2014 11:43 PM by Pamela

    How dangerous is it to have five CT scans in two months on the brain for a brain bleed? Also does it scan your face and eyes also?

    posted @ Wednesday, April 08, 2015 10:34 AM by Jeanette Maddox

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