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CT scan

A series of X-rays that provide detailed, three-dimensional images of the inside of the body for diagnostic purposes.

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What is a CT scan?

A CT scan is a series of x-rays that provide detailed, three-dimensional images of the inside of the body for diagnostic purposes.

What happens before the test?

The instructions given to you before your CT scan will depend on the type of scan you are having. The radiology department that is doing the scan will speak to you about any special instructions. For some scans you may have to go without food for some time beforehand.

Other scans may require you to have a special drink or injection which will help show up parts of your body on the scan. The radiographer will explain this to you when you arrive for your scan. You will be asked to wear a hospital gown and you may need to remove your jewellery. It is important you let the staff know if you have any other medical history or if you have any allergies.

What happens during the test?

You will need to lie down on a scanner table. The radiographer may use pillows and straps to help position your body and keep you comfortable. You will need to lie as still as you can for the test. You may need an intravenous (into the vein) injection of dye. Sometimes this injection can cause a strange warm feeling that lasts a few seconds.

The table then slides through a large donut shape machine. It may move backwards and forwards as the scanner takes the pictures. You may be able to hear clicking, buzzing whilst the scanner is working, do not be worried this is normal.

You will be alone in the room however the radiographer can see and hear you. If you need anything you just need to talk, raise your hand or you may have a buzzer to press. The radiographer will talk to you during the test and may give you instructions. The test can take a few minutes or up to half an hour or more, depending on the type of investigation you are having.

What happens after the test?

You may need to wait for a short period of time whilst the scans are checked to make sure the radiographer has all the pictures required. You may also need to remain in the department if you have received an injection of dye. After this short time you will be allowed to go home. Most people can resume normal activity as soon as you leave the department.

Are there any side effects or risks?

A CT scan is a painless and relatively safe procedure. In rare instances some people may have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye. If you feel unwell in any way tell the staff at the department immediately.

A CT scan exposes you to a small amount of radiation. This exposure slightly increases your chance of developing cancer in the future. Normally pregnant women only have a CT scan in an emergency, tell the radiographer if you are pregnant or if there is a chance you could be pregnant.

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