CT scan (or CAT scan)
Your doctor or healthcare professional may recommend a CT scan (also known as a CAT scan) because it is the best way for us to make an accurate diagnosis for certain conditions.
You may feel nervous about your scan, but we don’t want you to worry. Our experienced consultants and radiographers are friendly and approachable, and can answer any questions you may have.
What is a CT Scan?
CT - Computerised Tomography. A scan using special X-rays to take images of the body. It uses a computer to create ‘slices’ (cross sections) of the body and internal organs.
Some terms you may hear:
- Outpatient - being an outpatient simply means you are coming in to see us for an appointment. You don’t stay overnight.
- Radiographer - a professional trained to take X-rays and scans.
- Radiologist - a doctor specialising in interpreting X-rays.
During a CT scan a series of X-rays are taken of your inner body from slightly different angles and an advanced computer puts them all together, producing clear cross-sectional images. The detail in the images of a CT scan means that the radiologist may be able to detect tiny abnormalities. This accuracy helps in the early detection of disease and injury, allowing effective treatment planning. If you receive an injection of contrast as part of the examination there is a small risk of an allergic or minor reaction to the injection. Our medical teams are trained to deal with this if it happens. If you have any concerns about this, please contact us on the number on your appointment letter.
Is a CT scan safe?
Like other X-ray imaging exams, CT scans expose you briefly to a small, targeted amount of ionizing radiation, The amount of radiation you're exposed to during a CT scan varies, depending on how much of your body is scanned.
CT scanners are designed to make sure you're not exposed to unnecessarily high levels.
Generally, the amount of radiation you're exposed to during each scan is the equivalent to between a few months and a few years of exposure to natural radiation from the environment. In all cases the Clinician who refers you for a CT scan will ensure that the benefits provided by the information in the examination outweighs the risks associated with the radiation dose.
A CT scan may not be suitable for everyone. If you are, or might be, pregnant please contact us on the number on your appointment letter as we may not be able to scan you.
Preparing for your CT scan
We want to make sure that you are fully informed – so please do call us if you have any questions before your appointment. If certain medical terms aren’t clear, we explain them. If you’d like to bring a family member or friend, that’s no problem.
At your appointment you will meet your radiographer who will be an expert in CT scanning. The radiographer will be with you throughout the whole process, from explaining the scan and answering your questions beforehand, to performing the actual scan.
Your appointment can take up to 40 minutes, depending on the area of your body being scanned. For around half this time you will be lying down on the scanning bed, but the actual scan may take less than a minute.
No special preparation is needed, but we do want you to feel as comfortable as possible during your scan and for the procedure to go smoothly. So there are some things to bear in mind before you come to us.
You can eat and drink as normal and continue to take any prescribed medicines. And, because we need to get images that are clear as possible, please wear clothing that has no metallic parts, such as buttons, zips and hooks. If you are wearing an under-wire bra, you may be asked to remove it.
Some scanning beds have a weight limit for safe use, which is usually between 110 and 130Kg (about 20 stone). If you feel this may be a problem, please contact us and we can make arrangements that have your safety and comfort in mind.
On the day of your CT scan
When you arrive for your appointment you will be greeted by a member of staff who will check your name, date of birth and address. At this time you’ll be given the opportunity to ask any questions. If necessary, your radiographer may ask you to change into a gown for the scan and any metal objects, such as jewellery, keys, coins or metal dentures may need to be removed. This will only be if an article of clothing could interfere with the scan.
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