Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

A computed tomography (CT) scan is one of diagnostic radiology procedure that involves a series of x-ray images taken from different angles around a patient’s body. These three-dimensional images are then processed by a computer to create cross-sectional images of the bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues, allowing for clear visualization of organs.

  1. To examine various organs in the body to detect any abnormalities as well as any masses or cysts, fracture of bones, infection, swelling or obstruction of blood vessels, etc.
  2. To monitor the results of treatment, such as in cancer patients after surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.
  3. To determine the location for biopsy to test for cancer or location for drainage of fluid or pus from the body.
A CT scan provides detailed and accurate results with three-dimensional images that give more information for diagnosis than regular x-ray. CT scan helps detect more abnormalities and can diagnose complex diseases. The procedure does not take very long and is convenient.
Risks of Radiation
CT scan uses radiation and may slightly increase the risk of cancer in the long-term. With the current technology, the radiologist and radiologic technologist can adjust the level of radiation to be most appropriate for the patient and only just enough for diagnosis. For children, parents should discuss the risks of the procedure with the doctor to determine the most appropriate course of action as children are more sensitive to radiation than adults.

This procedure is not appropriate for pregnant patients and those who are trying to conceive as radiation is risky for the fetus. Only if the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks will the doctor recommend the CT scan.
Risks of CT Scan With Contrast media
  1. A small number of patients may experience immediate side effects or allergic reactions to the contrast media. These may include nausea, vomiting, and feeling hot throughout the body. These symptoms often go away when the contrast media is stopped. Allergic reactions may be mild or severe, but are usually not serious and include rash, itching, hives, sneezing, and/or coughing. Serious reactions, which are rare, include difficulty breathing, low or high blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. However, the patient will be monitored the entire time by a radiologist and nurse, and any allergic reaction can be countered immediately. There is life-saving equipment in every procedure room and a team of expert emergency doctors are available 24 hours a day.
Delayed reactions, which are also rare, occur when the patient is home. If you experience any symptoms after a CT scan with contrast media, please return to the hospital immediately.
For patients at high risk of reaction from contrast media, the referring doctor or an allergist will consider administering antihistamines before the patient receives the contrast media to prevent reaction or may choose an alternative procedure.
  1. Contrast media extravasation is the leakage of contrast media outside the vein, causing the contrast media to be absorbed into the tissue under the skin. This can cause swelling in the area as well as pain, burning, and/or blistering. Your doctor will treat this immediately.
  2. Contrast induced nephropathy (CIN) may occur after intravenous administration of contrast media, especially in patients with diabetes or kidney disease or patients whose kidney function is compromised. These patients are at risk of renal failure after receiving contrast media. Patients at risk of contrast induced nephropathy may be recommended to undergo a different procedure or may require special preparation before the scan and the amount of contrast media used will be limited and carefully monitored by the referring doctor or an endocrinologist/nephrologist.
Risks of Sedation
If the patient cannot undergo the scan normally, such as children, those with claustrophobia, or those with pain that does not allow them to stay still, the doctor may recommend minimal to deep sedation or general anesthesia, to facilitate the scan. The doctor will work with an anesthesiologist to assess the patient and provide recommendations before the procedure.
There are usually no travel restrictions before and after the procedure, even with contrast media, except in patients who react to the contrast media. The doctor may prescribe antihistamines that can make the patient drowsy and in that case, the patient should not drive. The patient will be monitored until they are well enough to return home or when a friend or family member can take them home.
The success rate of CT scan is very high, but it depends on many factors, such as the type of procedure, the disease, and patient-specific factors. If you have any questions, please talk to your doctor.
What if the procedure is not performed?
The disease may not be diagnosed and treatment may be delayed or inaccurate, or disease may not be detected in its earliest stages when it can be treated more easily and is more likely to be cured.
General x-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT)—all depending on what your medical team and you decide is most appropriate, keeping the patient’s health and wellbeing in mind.

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