What Is CT?

CT stands for Computed Tomography (sometimes referred to as a CAT scan).  A CT scan produces hundreds of thin-slice, cross-sectional pictures of the body segment ordered.  The study is imaged with rotating beams of X-ray and detectors.  This information is processed by a computer to create numerous thin slices of very high-resolution images.  This is similar to examining a loaf of bread by picking up each slice and looking at it individually.  This data can also be processed to create views from the front, side and 3-D reconstruction of organs.  Some images are further enhanced by injecting iodinated intravenous contrast material.

Contrast is withheld if kidney function is decreased or there is prior history of significant allergy to the contrast.  A pre-procedure kidney-function blood test is often required.  However, the blood test is often not needed in young nondiabetic patients without history of kidney disease.  If there is an absolute need for contrast in a patient with prior history of allergy, then the patient may be premedicated with steroids to reduce or eliminate the risk of allergic reaction.  CT is contraindicated in pregnancy, so be sure to inform your physician and the technician if you may be pregnant. 

scan image

How Is CT Performed?

With the latest multidetector CT scanners, most examinations take less than 15 minutes.  Almost all scans can be obtained with you simply holding your breath.  You will be asked to lie on a comfortable table that will slide through a wide ring as your body is scanned.  If contrast material is required for your exam, a temporary IV line will be placed into your arm by the technician or radiologist.  For most abdominal scans, you will be asked to drink a dilute barium solution, beginning approximately 2 hours before the procedure. This is a well-tolerated solution that is inert and nonabsorbent.


Our GE Lightspeed multislice CT provides rapid acquisition with high resolution.  The entire chest and abdomen can be scanned with a single breath held for 15 seconds, providing images of sections as thin as 0.625 mm with advanced 3-D imaging software.  Even the most uncomfortable patient can tolerate this short procedure, which yields as much detail as needed for the earliest detection of pathology.