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Having a CT Scan

What is a CT scan?

A CT scan or CAT scan (Computed Axial Tomography) is a test used to look at the bones and soft tissues inside the body. The CT scan takes cross-sectional views and three-dimensional pictures. Each of these pictures is seen as an X-ray “slice” of the body. The images are shown on a computer screen and provide much more detail than an ordinary X-ray.

How long does the test take?

The test usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes. However, a CT scan of the stomach or pelvis can take up to two hours because you must drink a contrast liquid about an hour prior to the test.

Where can I have the CT scan done?

The test can be performed at the following locations:

  • Miami Valley Hospital
  • Miami Valley Hospital South
  • A satellite location in Beavercreek, Centerville (SouthMed) or Springboro

When should I arrive for the CT scan?

Arrive 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam to give the staff time to review your medical information.

What are the risks of having a CT scan?

You are exposed to radiation during a CT scan. This exposure can increase your risk of developing cancer, but doctors believe the benefit of the scan outweighs the potential risk. Learn more about CT scans Off Site Icon.

Be sure to inform your physician if you are pregnant. To avoid the risk of radiation to your baby, a different test may be ordered.

Reactions to intravenous contrast material are rare. The reaction can range from mild (itching or hives) to severe and life threatening (trouble breathing).

What kind of contrast material is needed for the CT scan?

Contrast material is used to highlight areas of your body. It goes into your body in different ways:

  • Oral contrast is a liquid you drink. It is used to help see your stomach and intestines. It can sometimes cause diarrhea.
  • Intravenous injection (IV) is placed into a vein by a needle. It is used to help see your blood system. You may feel warm or flushed when it first enters through the vein. You may also have a metal taste in your mouth. This last only a minute or so. Tell the technologist if you feel sick, strange or have trouble breathing.
  • Rectal contrast is given by an enema and used to help see you lower bowels. It may make you feel uncomfortable or bloated.

How do I prepare for the test?

Test preparation depends on which part of your body is being scanned. Some general guidelines are:

  • Do not eat and drink four hours prior to the exam
  • Bring a list of your current medications, including any over-the-counter medications
  • Get doctor-ordered lab work 

Specific instructions for your test will be given when the exam is scheduled. 

What happens during a CT scan?

You may be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove anything that may block the CT pictures (hairpins, jewelry and glasses). You will lie on a narrow table that slides in and out of the scanner. How far the table moves in and out of the scanner depends on what body part is being scanned. You may have straps placed around your body to provide safety. Contrast may be given to you during the exam. You may hear clicking and whirring sounds. The technologist will be close by and talk to you through an intercom.

What can I expect after the CT scan?

After the CT scan, you can return to your normal routine. If you were given contrast, the technologist may give you special instructions. You may be asked to wait for a short time to ensure you feel well. Drinking lots of water will help remove contrast from your body.

Your physician should receive the results of your CT scan in two to three business days.

What do I do next?

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