A noninvasive medical examination called a computed tomography (CT) scan, sometimes called a CAT scan, creates cross-sectional images of the body using specialized X-ray technology. These images can be used to diagnose and monitor various medical conditions, including cancer, trauma, and internal bleeding.

A CT scan takes multiple X-ray images from different angles around the body, which are combined to create a detailed 3D image. The test is painless and typically takes less than 30 minutes to complete. It is a valuable diagnostic tool because it can identify abnormalities that may not be visible on other imaging tests, such as a traditional X-ray.

Abdominal CT scan: This type of scan is used to diagnose problems in the abdomen and pelvis, such as tumors, infections, and gastrointestinal conditions.

Chest CT scan: A chest CT scan can help diagnose lung cancer, pneumonia, and other respiratory conditions.

Head CT scan: This type of scan is used to diagnose head injuries, stroke, and brain tumors.

Pelvic CT scan: A pelvic CT scan can help diagnose gynecological conditions, such as ovarian cancer and bladder and prostate problems.

Spine CT scan: This type of scan is used to diagnose spine conditions, such as herniated discs and spinal stenosis.

Preparing for a CT scan

You may be asked to remove any clothing or jewelry interfering with the images. You may also need to drink or inject a special dye into your body, which can help enhance the images. It is essential to inform your doctor if you are pregnant or have kidney problems, as these conditions may affect your ability to receive the dye.

During the CT scan

During the scan, you will lie on a table. This table moves through the CT scanner, which is a large, donut-shaped machine. The scanner will take multiple images of your body as you pass through it. It is crucial to remain still during the scan, as any movement can affect the quality of the images.

After the CT scan

If given a dye, you may need to drink extra fluids to help flush it out of your system. Your doctor will review the images and discuss the results at a follow-up appointment.

Risks and side effects

CT scans are generally safe but expose you to a small amount of radiation. The risk of radiation exposure is higher in children and pregnant women, so it is important to inform your doctor if you are pregnant or have any concerns about radiation exposure.

Rarely some people may develop an allergy to the dye used during the scan. An allergic response may cause hives, irritation, or breathing problems.

A CT scan is a valuable diagnostic tool to help identify and monitor various medical conditions. Although the test does expose you to a small quantity of radiation, the advantages typically exceed the drawbacks. Consult your doctor for any questions or concerns regarding a CT scan.