Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
A computed tomography (CT) scan provides 3-D images of bones, blood vessels and soft tissues.
A computed tomography (CT) scan is a diagnostic tool that can identify internal injuries and diseases as well as help physicians plan medical treatment. Using X-ray images and computer processing, a CT scan creates cross-sectional 3-D images of bones, blood vessels and soft tissues. It can provide more detail than an X-ray alone.
What a CT Scan Can Diagnose
A CT scan can be used to diagnose a wide range of medical conditions, including:
- Cancer, particularly lung, liver and pancreatic cancer
- Bone fractures
- Heart disease
- Bowel disorders
- Brain and spinal cord diseases
- Blood clots
- Internal bleeding
CT scans are also used to guide physicians as they make treatment decisions, such as for surgical procedures, biopsies and radiation therapy.
How CT Scans Are Performed
A CT scanner is a large, doughnut-shaped machine with a motorized table that slides through the opening of the doughnut. You will lie on this table and slowly move through the opening and into the scanner. As that happens, detectors and the X-ray tube will rotate around you to take images of your body.
It’s important to stay still during the CT scan to ensure the images that are produced are as clear as possible. You may be asked to hold your breath at certain points to help prevent blurry images.
What to Expect
Some patients need to drink a contrast dye beforehand to ensure blood vessels and tissues show up clearly. If you cannot drink the dye, it can be given intravenously or as an enema.
There is a small amount of ionizing radiation used during the CT scan to produce the images. As such, there is a tiny increase in cancer risk, but the effect is so small that it can’t be measured. CT scans are also safe for children and pregnant women, but it’s important to discuss the procedure with your physician beforehand to assess the overall risk.
A rare side effect of CT scans is having an allergic reaction to the contrast dye, most typically a mild rash or itchiness.
The CT scan will be interpreted by a radiologist who will prepare a report explaining the results. In non-emergency situations, the results of the CT scan will be available within 24 hours. In emergency situations, they can be ready within an hour.
Tampa General Hospital has received the gold seal of accreditation for CT imaging by the American College of Radiology, thanks to our high standards for imaging technology, quality control and personnel qualifications. Our hospital offers a number of state-of-the-art diagnostics to help provide appropriate diagnoses for patients and deliver comprehensive treatment guidelines for physicians.