Computed Tomography (CT)

A CT scanner is a special x-ray machine which produces and image of a cross section, or ‘slice’ of the body. They are used to diagnose illnesses.

You may have been referred for a CT scan to help with your diagnosis. The information below guides you through the process.

What do I need to do before my scan?

Instructions on what you need to do before your scan will be sent to you with your appointment letter.  The radiographer will explain to you what will happen during your scan and you will be able to ask any questions that you might have.

For scans of the abdomen and pelvis you may be asked to fast for four hours.  When you arrive in the CT department you might  be asked to drink up to a litre of fluid (to help show the bowel on the scan).

What will happen during my scan?

You may be required to remove some clothing or jewellery before your scan.  You will be provided with a hospital gown if necessary.  You will be asked if there is any possibility of pregnancy, if you are diabetic, have asthma or any allergies.

During the scan you will need to lie on the x-ray couch and keep as still as you can.  The radiographer will make sure you are as comfortable as possible before the scan begins.  You may need to have an injection of a special ‘dye’ or contrast agent either before or during your scan.  This will usually be in a vein at your elbow and is similar to having a blood test.  This ‘dye’ can sometimes give you a warm feeling for a short time as it is injected.  The couch will be moved into the scanner so that the part of your body being imaged is inside the ‘doughnut’.  The radiographer will retire to the control room, but you will be able to talk to them via an intercom, and they will be watching you all the time.  If at any time you feel any discomfort or apprehension you should mention it to the radiographer immediately.

Will it be uncomfortable?

No.  You will not feel any pain, although you may feel some slight discomfort from having to lie still.  Most patients do not mind lying with part of their body within the ‘doughnut’, but if this makes you feel apprehensive do tell the radiographer straight away.

How long will it take?

If you are given fluid to drink when you arrive you will usually have to wait for between half an hour and an hour before your scan.  This is to give suffiecient time for the fluid to fill the bowel.  The scan itself will usually take up to 20 minutes.

Can I bring a relative or friend with me?

Yes, but for safety reasons they will not be able to come into the scan room with you except in very special circumstances.

Are there any side effects?

Not usually.  You can drive home afterwards and may return to work as necessary.  You will be able to eat and drink normally.

When will I get my results?

The radiologist (x-ray specialist) will examine your CT scan shortly after your visit and prepare a report on the findings.  This may take some time to reach your referring doctor, but will usually be less than 7 days.

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