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What is a CT scan and how can I prepare for one?

What is a CT scan and how can I prepare for one?

If your doctor says you’re going to need a CT scan, what does that mean? All types of doctors use CT (short for computerized tomography) scans, usually to diagnose patients and to evaluate how well treatment has worked.

The doctors at NeuroMicroSpine sometimes order CT scans to better understand what’s causing problems in your spine.

A CT scan can provide much more information than a traditional X-ray. The CT machine essentially takes X-rays from many different angles. The information is then processed by computer to show cross-sectional images of not just your bones but also soft tissues and blood vessels.

What happens during a CT scan?

During the scan, you will lie down on a narrow table, which will slide into a machine that is shaped a bit like a doughnut (with you fitting through the “hole”). You may need to lie very still to avoid distortion in the images, and the radiology technologist may ask you to hold your breath for a few moments. You’ll probably hear some buzzing or whirring noises.

The process is painless and usually only lasts a few minutes. If you suffer from claustrophobia, let us know ahead of time. We may want to prescribe medicine to help you feel calmer.

What should you know before coming for your scan?

You’ll need to remove any metal objects, such as jewelry, eyeglasses, hairpins, and underwire bra; wear loose-fitting clothes, although you may be asked to change out of your street clothing into a hospital gown. 

In some cases, you will be given contrast dye to help doctors more clearly see certain areas of your body. Your doctor will let you know whether that’s necessary in your case. If so, you may be asked not to eat or drink before the exam.

What are the risks of a CT scan?

The process does involve more exposure to radiation than you would get from a normal X-ray, but the risks of harm are small. Studies indicate about a 1 in 2,000 chance of getting a fatal cancer due to a CT scan.

Some people are allergic to the contrast dyes, although this is uncommon. Usually this only involves itchiness or a rash, although more serious reactions are possible. If you’ve had a reaction to contrast dyes in the past, let your medical team know. They may be able to prescribe something to prevent an allergic reaction.

Because there is some risk to a developing fetus, women who are pregnant or think they might be pregnant should let their doctor know before getting a CT scan. 

For more information on CT scans or other tests you might need, or to make an appointment with the doctors at NeuroMicroSpine, please call (850) 934-7545 or click here to request an appointment. We hope to see you soon!

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.