CT Scan: Definition, Use, and Preparation Before Doing It

A CT scan or computerized tomography scan is a medical examination procedure that uses a combination of X-ray technology and a special computer system to produce images of organs, bones, and soft tissues inside the body.

Images from CT scans can provide more detailed and accurate information than regular X-rays. This medical procedure is also usually not time consuming and painless.

The use of CT Scan

A CT scan is a circular scanning machine that is wide and large enough for an adult to enter in a lying position. CT scans are generally used for the following:

  • Obtaining a diagnosis of muscle, bone, and joint disorders
  • Determine the location and size of the tumor
  • Determine the location of infection and blood clots
  • Guide medical procedures, such as surgery, biopsy, or radiation therapy
  • Detect and monitor the development of certain conditions and diseases, such as cancer and heart disease
  • Locating the site of injury or internal bleeding

What are body parts scanned by CT scan

Here are some parts of the body that are often examined using a CT scan:

  • Head, to detect dead tissue due to stroke, tumor, hardening of the tissue, bleeding, and head trauma
  • Lungs, to detect the presence of injury, inflammation, infection, or even cancer in the lungs
  • Heart, to produce images of coronary arteries
  • Abdominal and pelvic cavities, to diagnose diseases of the organs in the abdominal and pelvic cavities, such as the spleen, liver, pancreas, and bile ducts
  • Bone, to scan the condition of fractures and measure bone mineral density to detect osteoporosis

Considering CT Scan Risk Factors

During the CT scan, you will be exposed to a higher level of radiation than a regular X-ray. This radiation may slightly increase the risk of developing cancer. However, CT scanning has more benefits than risks.

Doctors will usually use the lowest possible radiation level to obtain the required medical information through a CT scan. What’s more, the latest machines and techniques can make the radiation you get less and less. With low radiation levels, no negative effects are known to occur.

However, exposure to CT scan radiation should be avoided by pregnant women and those of you who are undergoing a pregnancy program. In pregnant women, doctors will usually recommend a type of scan that does not use radiation, such as ultrasound, to avoid harm to the fetus.

In addition, children also have a greater risk of radiation exposure than adults. In pediatric patients, CT scans can be performed if absolutely necessary.

Preparation Before CT Scan

Before undergoing the CT scan process, prepare the following things to make the examination easier:

  • Wear comfortable and loose clothing
  • Fasting for a few hours before the CT scan procedure
  • Removing metal objects, such as jewelry, glasses, dentures, hair clips, watches, belts, and bras equipped with wires, so as not to interfere with CT scan results
  • Take notes about certain complaints or allergies experienced
  • Bring a medical history
  • Bring a record of drugs and supplements consumed

During the CT scan, here are the things you need to know:

  • You will be asked to change into special clothes provided by the hospital.
  • You can start lying on your back on the CT scan table using a pillow and strap to help maintain a correct body position and stay still during the exam.
  • The table will move automatically and slowly through the machine as the CT scan is performed.
  • If you feel tense or have a phobia of being in an enclosed space, it’s best to talk to a medical professional first.
  • If necessary you will be given contrast fluid before a CT scan is performed to help clarify the image.
  • During the CT scan, you must remain lying down and not be allowed to move.
  • You may be asked to hold your breath during the scanning process, as any body movement, including breathing, can affect image quality.

CT scan results are not immediately available after the examination. The computer will process all the images from the scanning process, which will then be analyzed by a radiology specialist. A summary of the analysis will usually be sent by the radiologist within 30 minutes.

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