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CT scan is an imaging test that uses X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan shows details of the bones, muscles, fat, soft tissues, organs, and blood vessels. They are more detailed than regular X-rays.
In a CT scan, an X-ray beam moves in a circle around your body. This allows many different views of the same part of the body. The X-ray information is sent to a computer that interprets the X-ray data and displays it on a monitor.
During some tests you receive a contrast dye, which can be given orally, though a vein, or both ways. This will make parts of your body show up better in the image.
CT scans of the abdomen can give more detailed information than regular X-rays. CT scans can give healthcare providers more information about injuries and/or diseases of the abdominal organs.
The abdomen contains many organs. These include the gastrointestinal, urinary, endocrine, and reproductive systems. A CT scan of the abdomen may be used to check the abdomen and its organs for:
A CT scan may be done when another type of exam, such as an X-ray or physical exam, is not conclusive.
It may also be used to check tumors and other conditions of the abdomen before and after treatment. Or it can be done to guide the needle during biopsies and other procedures. A biopsy is when a small piece of tissue is removed so it can be examined in the lab.
There may be other reasons that you may need a CT scan of the abdomen. Check with your healthcare provider for more information.
You may want to ask your healthcare provider about the amount of radiation used during the CT scan. He or she can also explain your personal risks. Ct scan radiation varies, but may be up to 100 times greater than a regular chest X-ray. It is a good idea to keep a record of your radiation exposure, such as previous CT scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your healthcare provider. Risks linked to radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of X-ray exams and/or treatments over a long period.
If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your healthcare provider. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects.
If contrast dye is used, there is a risk for allergic reaction to the dye. If you are allergic to or sensitive to medicines, contrast, or iodine, tell your healthcare provider.
Nursing mothers should discuss with their provider whether to delay breastfeeding after receiving contrast. There are currently conflicting recommendations currently on this topic.
People taking the medicine metformin for diabetes should alert their healthcare provider before having IV contrast. It can cause a rare condition called metabolic acidosis. If you take metformin, you will be asked to stop taking it 48 hours after your CT scan. A blood test may be needed before you can start taking metformin again.
People with kidney failure or other kidney problems should talk with their healthcare provider. In some cases, the contrast dye can cause kidney failure, and people with kidney disease are more prone to kidney damage after contrast exposure.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical problems. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
Certain things may make a CT scan of the abdomen less accurate. These include:
You may have a CT scan as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition.
Generally a CT scan of the abdomen follows this process:
While the CT procedure itself causes no pain, having to lie still for the length of the procedure might cause some discomfort or pain, particularly if you’ve recently been injured or had surgery. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
If contrast dye was used, you may be watched for a period of time for any side effects or reactions to the contrast dye. These include itching, swelling, rash, or trouble breathing. Tell the radiologist or your healthcare provider right away if you notice any of these symptoms.
Tell your healthcare provider if you notice any pain, redness, and/or swelling at the IV site after you go home. These could be signs of infection or other type of reaction.
If you are given contrast by mouth, you may have diarrhea or constipation after the scan.
Otherwise you don't need any special care after a CT scan of the abdomen. You may go back to your usual diet and activities unless your healthcare provider tells you differently.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
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