Capturing multiple x-rays of your insides, at different vantage points, CT scans are quick and painless. Learn about the science, the benefits, and the experience.
What is a CT scan?
A computerized tomography, or CT scan, is essentially an x-ray machine that uses radiation to take pictures—called slices—of the body from different angles. The machine then combines these slices into a single 3D image. With various cross-sectional images of bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues, CT scans provide a more detailed look at your body than an x-ray.
Though they have many imaging uses, physicians typically order CT scans to help identify and diagnose bone and muscle disorders, tumors, and internal injuries. They also use CT scans to guide surgical procedures and to monitor the effectiveness of certain treatments. Allowing for detailed, 3D glimpses of your body’s internal structures, CT scans are often great diagnostic options.
What should I expect from this scan?
The first thing you should know: CT scans are powerful, easy, and non-invasive. In many cases, you can be in and out of the procedure room in less than 30 minutes.
When you schedule your appointment, we’ll let you know whether you need to fast beforehand. If your CT scan is of your brain, hand, foot, leg, or other isolated body part, wear clothes you can be comfortable in. If your CT scan involves the torso, we will give you a gown to change into—and will ask you to remove metal objects and jewelry. You’ll lie on a narrow table that slides into the CT chamber—shaped like a thin donut (less cavernous than an MRI). The scanner will rotate around the tube, taking multiple image slices of your body, often making a dull whirring sound. Make sure to lie still while the machine is operational, to optimize your images.
Sometimes, we’ll give you a contrast dye—either orally or intravenously—to better highlight certain areas of the body. It can taste unpleasant or make you feel warm, but it won’t hurt. If you suspect you might be allergic to contrast, let our care team know.
During the CT scan, our technologists will be monitoring you closely. Your technologist is always available if you have concerns or questions. We want you to feel calm and comfortable at all times.
After your scan, we’ll help you gather your belongings, and you’ll be free to go.
Our radiologists will assess and interpret the images and send a report to your physician that same day. Please anticipate a call from your physician’s office with the results.