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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Body

How It Feels

The test will not cause pain. The table you lie on may feel hard, and the room may be cool. It may be hard to lie still during the test.

Some people feel nervous inside the CT scanner.

If a medicine to help you relax (sedative) or dye (contrast material) is used, an IV is usually put in your hand or arm. You may feel a quick sting or pinch when the IV is started. The dye may make you feel warm and flushed and give you a metallic taste in your mouth. Some people feel sick to their stomachs or get a headache. Tell the technologist or your doctor how you are feeling.

Risks

The chance of a CT scan causing a problem is small.

  • There is a chance of an allergic reaction to the dye (contrast material).
  • If you have diabetes or take metformin (Glucophage), the dye may cause problems. Your doctor will tell you when to stop taking metformin and when to start taking it again after the test so you will not have problems.
  • There is a small chance of developing cancer from having some types of CT scans.1 The chance is higher in children, young adults, and people who have many radiation tests. If you are concerned about this risk, talk to your doctor about the amount of radiation this test may give you or your child and confirm that the test is needed.

Results

A computed tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays to make detailed pictures of structures inside the body.

Complete results usually are ready for your doctor in 1 to 2 days.

CT scan
Normal:

The organs and blood vessels are normal in size, shape, and location. No blood vessels are blocked.

No foreign objects (such as metal or glass fragments), growths (such as cancer), inflammation, or infection are present.

No bleeding or collections of fluid are present.

Abnormal:

An organ is too large or too small, damaged, or infected. Cysts or abscesses are present.

Foreign objects (such as metal or glass fragments) are present.

Kidney stones camera.gif or gallstones camera.gif are present.

Growths (such as tumors) are seen in the colon, lungs, ovaries, liver, bladder camera.gif, kidneys camera.gif, adrenal gland, or pancreas.

A CT scan of the chest shows a pulmonary embolism, fluid in the lungs, or infection.

An aneurysm is present.

Blockage is found in the intestines or in the bile ducts.

A CT of the belly shows inflammatory bowel disease or diverticulitis.

Lymph nodes are enlarged.

One or more blood vessels are blocked.

A growth, fracture, infection, or other problem is found in an arm or leg.

What Affects the Test

The following may stop you from having the test or may change the test results:

  • Pregnancy. CT scans are not usually done during pregnancy.
  • Barium and bismuth used for another test. These substances show up on a CT scan. If a CT scan of the belly is needed, it should be done before any tests that use barium, such as a barium enema.
  • Metal objects in the body. These items, such as surgical clips or metal in joint replacements, may prevent a clear view of the body area.
  • You are not able to lie still during the test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 21, 2012
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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