skip navigation
Hospital Visitor Policy

Preparing for Your CT Scan

You may be asked to:

Remove some or all of your clothing and wear a hospital gown.

Remove any metal objects, such as a belt or jewelry, which might interfere with image results.

Stop eating for a few hours before your scan.

Inform your physician of any medications you are taking and if you have any allergies, especially to contrast materials.

Inform the technologist of any recent illnesses or medical conditions, and if you have a history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid problems. Any of these conditions may increase the risk of an unusual adverse effect.

Women should always inform their physician or technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.

If your infant or young child is having a spiral CT, there are measures that can be taken to ensure that the test will not cause anxiety for either the child or parent.

Contrast Material

A special dye called a contrast material is needed for some CT scans, to help highlight the areas of your body being examined. The contrast material blocks X-rays and appears white on images, which can help emphasize blood vessels, intestines or other structures.

If your esophagus, stomach, or intestines are being scanned, you may need to drink a liquid that contains contrast material. This drink may taste unpleasant.

Contrast agents can be injected through a vein in your arm, to help view your gallbladder, urinary tract, liver or blood vessels. You may experience a feeling of warmth during the injection or a metallic taste in your mouth.

How the CT Scan is Preformed

The CT scanning is usually completed within 30 minutes.

The technologist begins by positioning you on the CT examination table (flat on one's back, on the side or stomach).

If a contrast material is used, it will be injected through an intravenous line (IV) into an arm vein during the procedure.

The table will move quickly through the scanner to determine the correct starting position for the scans. Then, the table will move slowly through the machine as the actual CT scanning is performed.

Straps and pillows may be used to help maintain the correct position and to hold still during the exam.

You may be asked to hold your breath during the scanning.

You will be asked to wait until the technologist determines that the images are of high enough quality for the radiologist to read.

What to Expect During and After the Exam

Most CT exams are painless, fast and easy. With spiral CT, the amount of time that the patient needed to lie still is reduced.

Though the scanning itself causes no pain, there may be some discomfort from having to remain still for several minutes. If you have a hard time staying still, are claustrophobic or have chronic pain, you may find a CT exam to be stressful.

Occasionally, patients develop hives and an itch, which can be relieved with medication. If you become light-headed or experience difficulty breathing, the technologist or nurse should be notified immediately, as it may indicate a more severe allergic reaction.

When entering the CT scanner, special lights may be used to properly position. You may hear slight buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds as the CT scanner moves during the imaging process.

During the CT scan, you will be alone in the exam room, however, the technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times.

With pediatric patients, a parent may be allowed in the room, but will be required to wear a lead apron to prevent radiation exposure.

After a CT exam, you may return to normal activities. If a contrast material was given, special instructions may follow.

Your provider will call you with the results when a report is finalized by the radiologist.