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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Spine

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 you get medicine to help you relax or if contrast material is used, you may have an IV 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 stomach or get a headache. Tell the technologist or your doctor how you are feeling.

If you have dye put in your back, you may feel a sting or pinch when the needle is put in.

After a test in which the dye is put in your back, you will be told to keep your head up and to not bend over or lie flat. This will help prevent headaches and seizures.

Risks

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

  • There is a chance of an allergic reaction to the 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.
  • You may have nausea or vomiting after the test.
  • There is a small chance of an infection at the needle site on your spine or bleeding into the space around the spinal cord.
  • An injection into the space around the spinal cord may cause a headache. In rare cases, seizures may occur after an injection of contrast material.
  • 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.

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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