CT scans are a quick and noninvasive way to get images of what’s going on inside a patient’s body. Doctors use CT (computed tomography) for diagnosis and treatment of the following:
- Muscle and bone disorders
- Cancer and other tumors
- Blood clots
- Internal injuries and bleeding
Accurate imaging leads to more effective treatment. If your doctor orders a CT scan, you should schedule the test promptly and go prepared. At Regional One Health’s East Campus Imaging Center, patients with a doctor’s order can typically have the test within a week.
“Patients often arrive with a lot of questions,” Imaging Center Manager Susan Edwards said. She aims to put their minds at ease about safety and what to expect.
Is radiation from the test safe?
Edwards said a CT scan does expose patients to radiation because it involves multiple X-Rays. But the dose is so low that the risk of cancer is too small to even be measured.
The test does use radiation, so doctors only request it when there is a clear medical benefit. Patients should not undergo repeated CT scans. But, using the test to diagnose a specific injury is safe. Do not avoid a CT scan if your doctor believes it will lead to better diagnosis and treatment.
There are special considerations if you are pregnant. CT is only done on expectant mothers if the benefit of the accurate diagnosis outweighs exposure to radiation. Consult with your physician.
Can I eat and drink before the scan?
Your doctor will give you instructions on whether you can eat or drink. Follow them closely.
Doctors usually ask you not to eat for two hours before a CT scan. You should drink water so you’re hydrated for the contrast. You can also have tea or coffee.
What can I wear and bring?
Metal affects CT images. Therefore, leave the following at home:
- Metal hair accessories
Let your doctor and imaging tech know if you have the following medical devices. You can usually still have the test:
- Artificial joints
- Hearing implants
- Vascular stents
- Metal crowns
- Implanted pacemakers or defibrillators
What will happen during the test?
You will first take a contrast fluid either orally or via IV. It helps your physician read the scan.
Next, you lie on the padded table. Keep still as the donut-shaped machine moves around you to take images. The test usually takes less than 20 minutes.
If you’re nervous, ye can bring a family member or friend for support. The East Campus allows patients one person in the room with them during the test.
You can also take anti-anxiety medication as prescribed by your doctor. The East Campus does not supply the medication.
How do I schedule a test?
The East Campus has CT appointments between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call or bring your doctor’s order into the East Campus to schedule the test.