How you prepare for a CT scan depends on which part of your body is being scanned. You may be asked to:
A special dye called a contrast material is needed for some CT scans, to help highlight the areas of your body being examined. The contrast material blocks X-rays and appears white on images, which can help emphasize blood vessels, intestines or other structures.
Contrast material can enter your body in a variety of ways:
If your doctor has prescribed an exam with contrast, one of our staff members will give you instructions prior to your arrival. You may continue to take your medications.
CT scans are painless andtypically take only a few minutes to complete. Total exam time can be 15-30 minutes.
After the exam you can return to your normal routine. If you were given a contrast material, you may receive special instructions. In some cases, you may be asked to wait for a short time before leaving to ensure that you feel well after the exam. After the scan, you’ll likely be told to drink lots of fluids to help your kidneys remove the contrast material from your body. If the area where the IV tube was placed inside your vein is red, swollen or sore, you should put a warm, wet towel on the area four times a day for 15-20 minutes. If swelling continues for more than 24 hours, you should call your doctor.
During a CT scan, you’re briefly exposed to radiation. This radiation from imaging tests has a very small potential to increase your risk of cancer. Still, CT scans have many benefits that may outweigh potential risks. We use the lowest dose of radiation possible. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of your CT scan.
Please tell us or your doctor if you’re pregnant. Another type of exam may be recommended, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to avoid the risk of exposing your fetus to the radiation.
In certain cases, your doctor may recommend you receive a special dye called a contrast material through a vein in your arm before your CT scan. Although rare, the contrast material can cause medical problems or allergic reactions. Most reactions are mild and result in a rash or itchiness. In rare instances, an allergic reaction can be serious and potentially life-threatening. Tell your doctor if you’ve ever had a reaction to contrast material.
Quantitative CT is a test that allows doctors to test bone density and strength in patients. It is used mostly to diagnose patients who are suffering from osteoporosis. The techniques for performing this test were developed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, but have since been perfected to diagnose a number of bone density problems.
Patients who need a quantitative CT scan should prepare for a process where images are captured via x-ray. Elderly patients may need some additional help for the procedures if lying down on the table is too difficult for them.
After being given the proper clothing to wear for the quantitative CT, patients will be taken to a table where they will be asked to lie down for the scan. The patient will then be moved on the table into the large tube-like area of the CT equipment where a 3-dimensional image will be created around the spine and hip. The test will create 3-D images. The degeneration of bones should be visible in the image before the exam is over. Afterwards, there are no special considerations that need to be made.