Computed Tomography Latest Facts: What Is a CT Scan and How Safe Is It?

Computed tomography enables the medical professional to assess the state of your bones, muscles, blood vessels, and organs. From this article, you’ll get to know how a CT scan happens and who can have it.

CT Scan

CT Scan

Computed tomography is a method that enables doctors to quickly and accurately diagnose different types of injuries and diseases. It’s painless and noninvasive but at the same time rather costly. You can have this procedure either in an imaging center or at a hospital. From this article, you’ll get to know about the safety and efficiency of CT scans as well as the process of preparation and contraindications for the procedure.

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How Does This Imaging Method Work?

This technology relies on X-rays and computers to create pictures of a cross-section of your body. The doctor receives detailed images that show very thin slices of your bones, muscles, organs, and blood vessels.

While X-ray machines deliver 2D images, computed tomography creates 3D ones. You’ll be lying inside a doughnut-shaped tube that rotates the X-ray 360 degrees around your body. Different tissues of your organism absorb radiation differently. If a certain type of tissue has low density, its representation against the black background will be darker than that of high-density tissues.

Why Might You Need a Contrast?

Not every type of scan requires a contrast (also known as a dye). The medical professional might recommend using it if they need to highlight specific features on the image. You might either get an intravenous injection with the dye or drink a special liquid with the contrast agent. This substance might make you feel flushed or have a metallic taste in your mouth. Over the next 24 hours, it will be cleared from your organism through the urine.

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How Should You Prepare for the Procedure?

You should avoid eating and drinking for four hours before the appointment. The doctor will tell you whether you can keep taking your regular medicines as usual.

Right before the test begins, the doctor might ask you to change into a gown and remove the following objects from your body:

  • Zippers
  • Jewelry
  • Watch
  • Piercings
  • Hearing aids
  • Dentures
  • Any metal details

If you’ll be using contrast, the process of preparation might become slightly more complicated. You might have a blood test to make sure the dye suits you. The doctor might ask you to stick to a diet for a few hours before the procedure. You might want to consume only clear liquids to avoid nausea that the dye might cause — these are just a few examples of such drinks.

  • Tea
  • Black coffee
  • Broth
  • Strained fruit juices
  • Soft drinks, such as ginger ale

One of the ingredients of the dye is iodine. If you’re allergic to you, you might need to take a steroid medication the night before and morning of the scan along with an antihistamine.

What Is the Duration of the Procedure?

The average duration of the procedure is around one hour, including the preparation. The process of scanning can take a maximum of half an hour. With some health conditions, 10 minutes should be enough.

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The technician will ask you to lie on your back on a table that resembles a bed. This platform will slowly move into the doughnut-shaped scanner. Any movement might create blurry images, so you’ll be required to stay as still as possible. The device will take pictures not of your whole body but only of the area that your doctor needs to examine. Unlike magnetic resonance imaging, this test is silent. Once it’s over, the platform moves back out of the tube. As soon as the procedure is completed and the doctor has verified clear images, you can resume your activities.

The results should be ready in 24 hours. The doctor will either call you or ask you to make another appointment to discuss this information. The physician who specializes in reading and interpreting CT scans is called the radiologist. This professional will investigate your pictures and compile a report that explains them. In case of an emergency, you might get the results within 60 minutes.

Which Health Conditions Can This Method Diagnose?

You might need to undergo this procedure to detect the following types of health conditions:

  • Brain and spinal cord diseases or injuries
  • Blood clots
  • Bowel disorders
  • Certain types of cancer and benign tumors
  • Fractures
  • Heart disease
  • Internal bleeding

This method delivers very accurate results when examining bones, organs and other soft tissues, blood vessels, and suspicious growths. Computed tomography clearly shows spaces between organs. Body structures won’t overlap in the picture, as it usually happens with X-rays.

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How Safe Is This Method?

Computed tomography is safe for both kids and adults. The technician might adjust the scanner to minimize radiation dose for younger patients.

However, the medical professional should warn you about two types of risks. First, if you’ll be using contrast, you need to make sure that you’re not allergic to it. If you should avoid a particular type of dye, the doctor might recommend another one.

Second, any exposure to radiation might increase the risk of developing cancer. In the case of computed tomography, the radiation dose will be tiny and highly unlikely to have any impact on your organism. Nevertheless, you should have this procedure only when it’s absolutely necessary.

Pregnant women can safely undergo such scans as long as they don’t need to examine their pelvis and abdomen. Scanning the rest of the body involves no risks for the unborn baby. Ladies need to warn the technician about their condition in advance.

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Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article came in handy, and now you better understand how CT scans work. However if in need of a CT scan provider you should look for a website that could provide answers to CT Scan near me type of queries to find facilities in your area. This painless and non-invasive method enables you to assess the condition of different tissues within your organism in 24 hours. You’ll be exposed to a tiny amount of radiation but it shouldn’t have any negative impact on you. During the procedure, you’ll need to lie still on a platform that moves into a doughnut-shaped tube. You might feel a slight discomfort only if the doctor injects a contrast in your vein or asks you to drink the dye — but in many cases, the scan doesn’t require a dye.

References

https://www.nibib.nih.gov/science-education/science-topics/computed-tomography-ct

https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/ct_scans.html

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