What is Computed Tomography (CT)?

Computed tomography (CT) is a diagnostic imaging test used to create detailed images of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels. The cross-sectional images generated during a CT scan can be reformatted in multiple planes, and can even generate three-dimensional images which can be viewed on a computer monitor, printed on film or transferred to electronic media.

CT is fast, painless, noninvasive and accurate. In emergency cases, it can reveal internal injuries and bleeding quickly enough to help save lives. CT can distinguish between normal and diseased or injured tissue based on changes in size, shape and appearance of the tissue. CT is used to evaluate a wide variety of problems and diseases such as cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, inflammation and cancer. Early diagnosis using CT scans can result in more successful treatment. CT is one of the most versatile and powerful diagnostic imaging modalities available today.

How should I prepare for this procedure?

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your exam. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure. Metal objects, including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins, may affect the CT images and should be left at home or removed prior to your exam. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work. Women will be asked to remove bras containing metal underwire. You may be asked to remove any piercings, if possible.

You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours beforehand, as contrast material may need to be used in your exam. If you require contrast material you should inform your physician of all medications you are taking and if you have any allergies. If you have a known allergy to contrast material, or "dye," your doctor may prescribe medications (usually a steroid) to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. These medications generally need to be taken 12 hours prior to administration of contrast material. To avoid unnecessary delays, contact your doctor before the exact time of your exam.

Heavy smoker? CT lung screening saves lives.