Hi there! We are excited to welcome you for your upcoming CT examination at Mass General Brigham. Here is a little bit of background on your upcoming CT examination – you can press play to hear the instructions or read them below.
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A computerized tomography (CT) scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images (slices) of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images provide more-detailed information than plain X-rays do.
A CT scan has many uses, but it’s particularly well-suited to quickly examine people who may have internal injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma. A CT scan can be used to visualize nearly all parts of the body and is used to diagnose disease or injury as well as to plan medical, surgical or radiation treatment
Why it’s done
Your doctor may recommend a CT scan to help:
- Diagnose muscle and bone disorders, such as bone tumors and fractures
- Pinpoint the location of a tumor, infection or blood clot
- Guide procedures such as surgery, biopsy and radiation therapy
- Detect and monitor diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, lung nodules and liver masses
- Monitor the effectiveness of certain treatments, such as cancer treatment
- Detect internal injuries and internal bleeding
During a CT scan, you’re briefly exposed to ionizing radiation. The amount of radiation is greater than you would get during a plain X-ray because the CT scan gathers more-detailed information. The low doses of radiation used in CT scans have not been shown to cause long-term harm, although at much higher doses, there may be a small increase in your potential risk of cancer.
CT scans have many benefits that outweigh any small potential risk. Doctors use the lowest dose of radiation possible to obtain the needed medical information. Also, newer, faster machines and techniques require less radiation than was previously used. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of your CT scan.
Harm to unborn babies
Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant. Although the radiation from a CT scan is unlikely to injure your baby, your doctor may recommend another type of exam, such as ultrasound or MRI, to avoid exposing your baby to radiation. At the low doses of radiation used in CT imaging, no negative effects have been observed in humans.
Reactions to contrast material
In certain cases, your doctor may recommend that you receive a special dye called contrast material. This can be something that you are asked to drink before your CT scan, or something that is given through a vein in your arm or inserted into your rectum. Although rare, the contrast material can cause medical problems or allergic reactions.
Most reactions are mild and result in a rash or itchiness. In rare instances, an allergic reaction can be serious, even life-threatening. Tell your doctor if you’ve ever had a reaction to contrast material.