Computed Tomography (CT), formerly known as CAT Scan, uses a limited beam of x-ray to obtain image data. The data is interpreted by a computer to show cross sectional images of the body tissues and organs. The scanner has a large opening in which the table moves up and slowly through. As the patient moves through the large opening, an x-ray tube rotates around the patient obtaining images.

Please come wearing clothing free of metal in the area being scanned including zippers, buttons, snaps,and bras with metal clips or clasps. You may be asked to remove jewelry, hairpins, hearing aids, removable dental work, body piercings, or any other metal in the area being scanned. Some CT exams require specific preparations which will be discussed at the time of scheduling. You be be asked to refrain from eating or drinking anything prior to your exam.

In most cases, allowing for paperwork and patient care time, the entire process will take an average of 30-40 minutes. The actual time it takes to obtain the images is very quick. This allows for optimal images without the chance to degrade image quality due to voluntary, or involuntary motion.

Your CT exam will be sent electronically to the radiologist, a physician who specializes in using CT and other radiologic examinations for the detection of abnormalities of the internal organs and bone structures. Thayer County Health Services uses Advanced Medical Imaging (AMI) to interpret all of their radiologic examinations. A dictated report will be available to your provider within 24 hours of your exam.

There are two commonly used contrast media used in CT. Barium sulfate is commonly used to opacify the GI tract (stomach, small and large intestines). This is usually taken orally. You will be informed when you schedule your exam if oral contrast is needed, and when you should drink it.

Another contrast agent commonly used contains iodine and is injected into the bloodstream intravenously, through an IV. This type of contrast makes blood vessels and other structures more visible on CT images. It may also be used to evaluate blood flow, detect tumors, and locate areas of inflammation. IV contrast is often used when scanning the brain, chest, abdomen and pelvis.

Before the injection of IV contrast material, the technologist will ask the patient if they have medicine or iodine allergies, along with other screening questions. If the patient is over 65 years of age and is scheduled for a CT exam with IV contrast, lab tests will be ordered to evaluate kidney function. Poor kidney function could cause potential problems in the elimination of the IV contrast from the patient’s body. You will be informed at the time of scheduling if lab work is required.