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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Body

Why It Is Done

CT scans are used to study areas of the body and the arms or legs.

  • Chest (thorax). A CT scan of the chest can look for problems with the lungs, the heart, the esophagus camera.gif, or the major blood vessel (aorta) or the tissues in the center of the chest. Some common chest problems a CT scan may find include infection, lung cancer, a pulmonary embolism, and an aneurysm. It also can be used to see if cancer has spread into the chest from another area of the body.
  • Abdomen. A CT scan of the abdomen can find cysts, abscesses, infection, tumors, an aneurysm, enlarged lymph nodes, foreign objects, bleeding in the belly, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and appendicitis.
  • Urinary tract. A CT scan of the kidneys camera.gif, ureters, and bladder is called a CT KUB or CT urogram. This type of scan can find kidney stones camera.gif, bladder stones, or blockage of the urinary tract camera.gif. A special type of CT scan, called a CT intravenous pyelogram (IVP), uses injected dye (contrast material) to look for kidney stones, blockage, growths, infection, or other diseases of the urinary tract.
  • Liver. A CT scan can find liver tumors, bleeding from the liver, and liver diseases. A CT scan of the liver can help determine the cause of jaundice.
  • Pancreas. A CT scan can find a tumor in the pancreas or inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
  • Gallbladder and bile ducts. A CT scan can be used to check for blockage of the bile ducts. Gallstones camera.gif occasionally show up on a CT scan. But other tests, such as ultrasound, usually are used to find problems with the gallbladder and bile ducts.
  • Adrenal glands. A CT scan can find tumors or enlarged adrenal glands.
  • Spleen. A CT scan can be used to check for an injury to the spleen camera.gif or the size of the spleen.
  • Pelvis. A CT scan can look for problems of organs in the pelvis. For a woman, these include the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. For a man, the pelvic organs include the prostate gland and the seminal vesicles.
  • Arm or leg. A CT scan can look for problems of the arms or legs, including the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, hip, knee, ankle, or foot.

Other uses for a CT scan

A CT scan may be used to make sure a procedure is done correctly. For example, the doctor may use CT to guide a needle during a tissue biopsy or to guide the proper placement of a needle to drain an abscess.

For people with cancer, a CT scan can help determine how much the cancer has spread. This is called staging the cancer.

How To Prepare

Before the CT scan, tell your doctor if you:

  • Are or might be pregnant.
  • Are allergic to any medicines, including iodine dyes.
  • Have a heart condition, such as heart failure.
  • Have diabetes or take metformin (Glucophage) for your diabetes. You may have to adjust your medicine for a day before and after the test.
  • Have had kidney problems.
  • Have asthma.
  • Have had multiple myeloma.
  • Have had an X-ray test using barium contrast material (such as a barium enema) in the past 4 days. Barium shows up on X-ray films and makes it hard to see the picture clearly.
  • Become very nervous in small spaces. You need to lie still inside the CT scanner, so you may need a medicine (sedative) to help you relax.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 05, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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