CT, sometimes called CAT scanning, uses special x-ray equipment to obtain images from different angles, which are then processed by computer to show a cross-section of body tissues and organs. A CT examination usually takes between 15-30 minutes.
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Metal objects can affect the image, so avoid clothing with zippers and snaps. You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for one or more hours before the exam. You may be asked to swallow a liquid contrast material that allows the radiologist to better see the stomach, small bowel and colon. Women should inform the technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
You will be comfortably positioned on a CT table, and you may be supported by pillows to help you stay in the proper position during the procedure. The table will move slowly into the opening in the center of the CT scanner. Very small, controlled amounts of x-ray radiation are passed through the body. A contrast material may be injected into a vein to enhance the visibility of blood vessels and kidneys.
Commonly, a contrast material is injected into a vein to better define the blood vessels and kidneys, and to accentuate the appearance between normal and abnormal tissue in organs such as the liver and spleen. Some people report feeling a flush of heat or a metallic taste in the back of the mouth. These sensations usually disappear within a minute or two.
A radiologist, who is a physician experienced in CT and other radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report with his or her interpretation to your primary care physician. Your physician's office will inform you about how to obtain your results.