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Computerized Tomography, AKA X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT), computerized axial tomography scan (CAT scan), and computer aided tomography.

CT Scans are performed using a rotating X-ray tube to produce high-resolution tomographic (cross-sectional) images, or virtual "slices" of the body. These slices can be processed by computer to produce two-dimensional images in three different planes, which can be further processed to generate three-dimensional images—in seconds. Contrast dye may also be used (administered orally or intravenously) to make structures of interest stand out visually, such as in an angiography of the heart.

A major advantage of CT is its ability to image bone, soft tissue and blood vessels all at the same time. CT imaging provides real-time imaging, making it a good tool for guiding minimally invasive procedures such as needle biopsies and needle aspirations of many areas of the body, particularly the lungs, abdomen, pelvis and bones. In emergency cases, they can reveal internal injuries and bleeding quickly enough to help save lives. CT is rapid, painless, and non-invasive, and a diagnosis determined by CT scanning may eliminate the need for invasive exploratory surgery and surgical biopsy.

CT can be performed if you have an implanted medical device of any kind, unlike MRI.

SMIL locations providing CT services:

The SMIL technologist will begin your CT scan by positioning you on the CT examination table; usually having you lay flat on your back. For children, the CT scanner technique will be adjusted to their size and the area of interest to reduce the radiation dose.

Next, 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.

You may be asked to hold your breath during the scanning. Any motion, whether breathing or body movements, can lead to artifacts or blurring on the images.

To prepare for a CT scan performed by a SMIL technologist, you should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure.

Metal objects, including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins, may affect the CT images and should be left at home or removed prior to your exam. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work. Women will be asked to remove bras containing metal underwire. You may be asked to remove any piercings, if possible.

You should inform your physician of all medications you are taking and if you have any allergies. If you have a known allergy to contrast dye, your doctor may prescribe medications (usually a steroid) to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. These medications generally need to be taken 12 hours prior to administration of contrast material.

Also inform your doctor of any recent illnesses or other medical conditions and whether you have a history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and kidney disease or thyroid problems. Any of these conditions may increase the risk of an unusual adverse effect.

In addition, women should always inform their radiologist and the CT technologist if there is any possibility that they may be pregnant.

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

Learn how to prepare for your specific exam below.

There is always a slight risk associated with any exposure to radiation. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis will generally outweigh the risk, and no radiation remains in a patient's body after a CT examination.

CT scanning is, in general, not recommended for pregnant women unless medically necessary because of potential risk to the baby. Women should always inform their SMIL staff if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. Depending on the exam being done, the risk may be minimal.

A small number of people may have a reaction to the contrast dye. Reactions may include a feeling of warmth, and/or nausea for a short period of time. Occasionally stronger reactions can include vomiting, hives, and swelling (in about 0.02% to 2% of people receiving contrast injections). Your doctor can help you evaluate whether you will have a sensitivity to the dye, and prepare accordingly.

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