CT scans allow doctors to view internal organs through x-ray type techniques. Many patients do not know the difference between a CT scan and a conventional x-ray exam. The two differ because a CT scan rotates itself around the patient's body to create cross sectioning images of the inside of the body. X-ray machines are stationary, providing a view of only one particular part of the body. However, they both use the same type of beam radiation. The precision of a CT scan is much denser than a conventional x-ray machine. Doctors are able to view the area in question as well as the surrounding organs and tissue that could also be important for determining a diagnosis. Usually, doctors recommend this type of scan in order to diagnose patients who may have a tumor, other type of injury, or internal bleeding. This process helps the doctors pinpoint the exact location of the problem.
There is not much preparation before receiving a CT scan. Depending on the area of the body, the doctor may ask the patient to put on a hospital gown. Also, all metal jewelry must be taken off because it could affect the images received or interrupt the case sensitive equipment. Some CT scan procedures require that the patient ingest a contrast medium that blocks x-rays and keeps a white color on the images. This type of solution can be taken orally or by injection. Fortunately, no side effects from the contrast medium have been reported other than ithcing or hives at the ingestion site.
The procedure begins by the patient being placed on a table that goes around a 'gantry' or machine that sends small doses of radiation around the body to project images. In the body, different tissues absorb different amounts of the radiation. The gantry has a device within it to measure the amount of radiation leaving the body. The computer assembles the images and then they are placed on the screen for observation. The length of time that the procedure takes depends on the location the doctors are observing. After the procedure is complete, the results are looked at by a Radiologist and the conclusions are then given to the doctor to determine a diagnosis. If the patient is pregnant, allergic to certain medications, or ha other serious medical complications, a CT scan may not be a suitable option for producing images of the body internally.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.