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Back Pain Health Center

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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Spine

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 sedative to help you relax.

Arrange for someone to take you home in case you get a sedative for the test.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, or how it will be done. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

A CT scan is usually done by a radiology technologist. The pictures are usually read by a doctor (radiologist). Other doctors also may review a CT scan.

You may need to take off any jewelry. You will need to take off all or most of your clothes, depending on which area is studied. You may be able to wear your underwear for some scans. You will be given a gown to use during the test.

During the test, you will lie on a table that is attached to the CT scanner.

The table slides into the round opening of the scanner, and the scanner moves around your body. The table will move while the scanner takes pictures. You may hear a click or buzz as the table and scanner move. It is very important to lie still during the test.

During the test, you may be alone in the scanning room. But the technologist will watch you through a window. You will be able to talk to the technologist through a two-way intercom.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
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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