What is CT Scan
A CT (Computed Tomography) scan is a medical imaging test that uses X-rays and computer processing to produce detailed, cross-sectional images of the body. It provides detailed information about bones, blood vessels, and soft tissue. CT scans are used to diagnose and monitor a variety of conditions and to guide medical procedures.
9 Important Uses of CT scan
CT scans are an important tool in medical diagnosis and treatment, and they are used in a wide range of medical applications. Here’s 9 important uses of CT scans:
- Diagnosing conditions: CT scans are used to diagnose various conditions, such as tumours, infections, lung conditions, and internal injuries. They can also detect abnormalities in bones, blood vessels, and organs.
- Monitoring diseases: CT scans can be used to monitor the progression of diseases such as cancer, emphysema, and liver cirrhosis.
- Guiding medical procedures: CT scans are often used to guide medical procedures, such as biopsies, radiation therapy, and surgeries.
- Detecting injuries: CT scans are frequently used to diagnose injuries, such as head injuries, neck injuries, back injuries, and fractures.
- Evaluating the chest and abdomen: CT scans can be used to examine the chest and abdomen to detect conditions such as pneumonia, heart disease, liver disease, and kidney disease.
- Evaluating the pelvis: CT scans can also be used to examine the pelvis, including the reproductive organs, bladder, and rectum, to diagnose conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and prostate cancer.
- Screening for cancer: CT scans can be used for cancer screening, particularly for lung cancer, as well as for detecting cancers at early stages.
- Research and development: CT scans can be used in medical research and development to better understand diseases, develop new treatments, and improve medical devices.
- Emergency care: CT scans can be used to quickly diagnose and treat injuries in emergency situations, such as traumatic brain injuries.
Note: While CT scans provide detailed images and have many uses, they also involve exposure to radiation, so it is important to weigh the benefits and risks with a doctor before undergoing a CT scan.
Risks associated with CT scan
The use of CT scans involves some risks, including:
- Radiation exposure: CT scans use ionizing radiation, which can increase a person’s lifetime risk of developing cancer. The amount of radiation exposure from a CT scan is higher than from a conventional X-ray.
- Allergic reactions: Some people may have allergic reactions to the contrast material used during a CT scan. The contrast material is usually injected into a vein to enhance the images of certain structures in the body.
- Kidney damage: The contrast material used during a CT scan can cause kidney damage in some people, especially those with pre-existing kidney problems.
- Pregnancy: CT scans should be avoided during pregnancy, as the radiation exposure can be harmful to the foetus.
- Claustrophobia: Some people may experience anxiety or fear when undergoing a CT scan, due to the enclosed space of the CT scanner.
It is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of a CT scan with a doctor, especially if a person has any medical conditions or is pregnant. In some cases, alternative imaging tests, such as ultrasound or MRI, may be used instead of a CT scan.
How to prepare for a CT scan
Preparation for a CT scan may vary depending on the type of exam and the reason for the exam, but here are some general guidelines:
- Provide your medical history: Be sure to inform the doctor of any medical conditions, allergies, and medications that you are taking.
- Arrange for transportation: Depending on the type of CT scan and the type of contrast material used, you may need to arrange for someone to drive you home.
- Follow fasting instructions: If you are scheduled for an abdomen or pelvis CT scan, you may be instructed to fast for several hours before the exam to avoid interfering with the images.
- Wear comfortable clothing: You will be asked to remove any metal objects, such as jewellery, glasses, and dentures, before the exam. You should wear comfortable clothing without any metal zippers or snaps.
- Discuss any special needs: If you have any special needs, such as a need for a sedative or a large bore IV for contrast material, be sure to discuss these needs with the doctor before the exam.
- Inform the doctor of pregnancy: If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, it is important to inform the doctor, as some CT exams may not be performed during pregnancy.
It is important to arrive on time for the CT scan and to follow any other instructions provided by the doctor or the imaging centre.
What to expect during a CT scan
During a CT scan, you can expect the following:
- Change into a gown: You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewellery, glasses, and dentures that may interfere with the images. You will then be given a gown to wear during the exam.
- Lying on a table: You will lie on a table that will move through the circular opening of the CT scanner. You may be positioned in various ways depending on the type of exam.
- Injection of contrast material: If a contrast material is used, it will be injected into a vein through an IV. This helps to enhance the images of certain structures in the body.
- Holding still: During the exam, you will need to lie still and hold your breath for a few seconds at a time while the images are being taken.
- Scan time: The actual scan time varies depending on the type of exam, but it usually lasts between 10 and 30 minutes.
- After the exam: After the exam, you may be asked to wait for a short time to ensure that you are feeling well. You can then return to your normal activities unless your doctor has instructed you otherwise.
It is important to inform the doctor or technologist if you experience any discomfort during the exam. The technologist will be able to see and hear you at all times during the exam and will be able to provide assistance if needed.
What to expect after a CT scan
After a CT scan, you can expect the following:
- Normal activities: In most cases, you can return to your normal activities immediately after the exam.
- Results: The results of the CT scan will be analysed by a radiologist, who will send a report to your doctor. The results of the exam and any necessary follow-up actions will be discussed with you by your doctor.
- Side effects: If a contrast material was used during the exam, you may experience some side effects such as a warm feeling, a metallic taste in the mouth, or a headache. These side effects are usually mild and temporary.
- Monitoring: If you received a large amount of contrast material, your doctor may ask you to drink plenty of fluids to help flush the contrast material from your body. You may also need to monitor your kidney function for a few days after the exam.
- Follow-up: If your doctor finds any unusual findings on the CT scan, you may need to undergo additional tests or procedures to confirm the diagnosis.
Make sure you follow any instructions or recommendations provided by your doctor after the CT scan. If you experience any unusual symptoms or have any concerns, you should contact your doctor promptly.
Overall, CT scans are an important diagnostic tool that can provide detailed images of the body and help doctors diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions.