Computed Axial Tomography, also known as a CAT or CT scan, is a sophisticated imaging technique that allows physicians to view a patient’s anatomy with incredible detail from any angle. The scanner uses an X-ray source that rotates around the patient gathering data which can then be reconstructed to view internal structures however the physician needs to. CT is a staple of modern medicine and can be used to detect and diagnose a huge range of conditions from simple bone fractures to cancer.
What is Contrast?
There are two categories of contrast for CT scans – Oral contrast and Intravenous (IV) contrast. Both help the reading radiologist easily see what can be subtle differences between closely spaced structures and organs in your body. Depending on what your doctor has ordered and what they are trying to diagnose, you may receive one of these or both. If a study requiring oral contrast has been ordered, you will receive two bottles of flavored drink with instructions on how and when to drink them. If IV contrast has been ordered the technologist will go over some general health questions before your exam and, if necessary, will review the results of a simple blood test.
What Should I Expect on the Day of my Exam?
CT scans are very fast compared to other imaging modalities with the longest scans taking only a few minutes. Most appointments that have not been ordered with IV contrast can be completed in ten to fifteen minutes. If IV contrast has been ordered, a few extra minutes are allotted for the technologist to place an IV and to go over some general questions about your health. Regardless of what your doctor has ordered, the technologist will make sure all of your questions about the exam are answered and that you are informed and comfortable.