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CT Scan: Procedure, Risks, Cost, Benefits And Side Effects

CT scan or Computed Tomography scan is the combination of computers and rotating X-ray machines. It is used to create cross-sectional images of the body. CT scan allows doctors to see inside the body with the help of this scanning machine. CT scan procedure shows the exact picture of organs, muscles, and bones.

This procedure helps in different ways. Keep reading to get more information about the CT scan, its procedure, the risk involved and more.

What is a CT Scan?

CT scan is an imaging examination that provides more detailed information than normal X-rays. It is perfect to figure out internal injuries in our bodies. Doctors ask for a CT scan to diagnose various diseases. It assists doctors in planning medical, surgical or radiation treatment.

In the CT scan procedure, your body is scanned entirely to figure out the disease or disorder. It’s the most effective, painless and less time-consuming procedure.

Why Need a CT scan?

You must have heard the word CT scan several times. But, do you know why is it required?

Doctors need CT scan reports to get an accurate idea about the functioning of our internal organs. It helps doctors in diverse ways. The diagnosis of various treatment is based on the CT scan reports like cancer, surgeries, fractures and so on. Your physician will recommend a CT scan in the following conditions:

  • To diagnose Bone or muscle disorders such as fractures or cancer.
  • Finding the exact location of the tumor.
  • To guide procedures such as surgery, biopsy and radiation therapy.
  • To figure out internal injuries.
  • Doctors compare CT scan reports to know the effectiveness of the treatment.

CT scan and plain X-ray takes pictures of internal body structure. But, conventional x-ray overlaps the structures. For example, the ribs overlap the heart and lungs.

Whereas CT scan eliminates overlapping and provides a more clear picture. With this advantage, the CT scan can figure out many common problems like-

  • Head related injuries or disorders like blood clots, skull fractures, infections or tumors.
  • Vertebral fractures and herniated intervertebral disks
  • Disorders related to the chest, such as heart disorders, lung abnormalities, and infections:
  • Detects abnormal anatomy, appendicitis, and cysts

CT Scan Procedure

The CT scan procedure starts with a special dye called Contrast Material. Your doctor will give you a dose of contrast. This is done to let the internal structure show up clearly in the x-ray images.

CT scan could also be done without Contrast Material. If your doctor plans to use contrast, you may be asked to fast for a few hours before the scan.

You will be asked to remove all jewellery or metallic items from your body before starting the scan. This is done because metallic things or jewellery can interfere with the CT scan results. The physician will ask you to lie down on a table that slides into the CT scan machine.

We understand that the procedure of a CT scan can be scary but don’t be panicked. Because the doctors can see and hear you completely from the control room after you enter the scanning machine. Even you can communicate with them via an intercom.

During the procedure, you will see that the x-ray machines are rotating around you. You may hear sounds of clicking, buzzing, or whirring. This entire procedure will take a maximum of 20 minutes.

CT Scan with Contrast

CT scan without contrast can show dense parts of the body. But sometimes, other parts don’t appear so clearly. To get a clear picture, doctors need a special Dye, known as a contrast.

Contrast Material is made up of iodine or barium sulfate. It blocks the x-ray and shows up white on the scan to highlight blood vessels, organs, or other structures.

Contrast can be provided in three forms:

  • It could be injected into your vein. This is done to help your blood vessels, livers, or gallbladder stand out in the scan.
  • The contrast could be given in the form of liquid to enhance scans of your body organs.
  • For the intestine scan, the contrast material will be inserted into your rectum.

It is advised to increase the intake of fluid after a CT scan with contrast material. Liquid intake helps to remove the contrast material from the body. It minimizes the side effects that can be caused by the presence of this material in the human body.

What are the Risk Factors Involved in a CT Scan?

  • As we know that CT scan involves x-rays, which produces ionizing radiation. These radiations increase the risk of cancer in the human body.
  • It may also damage your DNA tissues and lead to cancer. Although, the risk of developing cancer is very low. But the overall risk adds up over your lifetime.
  • The risk factor increases with every CT scan procedure. You can ask your doctor why is a CT scan necessary or if there are alternative procedures available for you.
  • The radiation produced by the CT scan is harmful to children and unborn babies. Before taking your child for a CT scan, talk to your doctor about the procedure and its side effects. Make sure that the CT scan machine is adjusted on child mode.

Note: CT scan during pregnancy is also harmful to the unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant. He/she will recommend some other imaging examinations like an ultrasound for the stomach area.

What are the Benefits of a CT Scan?

According to the statistics, the CT scan is one of the top five medical developments in the last 50 years. It has been proven as the best medical diagnostic tool that has helped in several ways:

  • determining when surgeries are necessary
  • reducing the need for exploratory surgeries
  • improving cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • guiding treatment of common conditions such as injury, cardiac disease, and stroke
  • improving patient placement into appropriate areas of care, such as intensive care units

In an emergency, the patient can be scanned quickly so that the doctor can assess their condition. CT scan images show the pinpoint for surgery. There are various imaging techniques available these days like MRI, ultrasound, x-ray and so on. But CT scan is one of the best procedures which offers the following advantages-

  • Rapid acquisition of images
  • Clear and specific information
  • A view of a large portion of the body

None of the imaging techniques except CT Scan can serve these advantages in a single session.

Also, Read About: MRI Guidelines for Patients – Things You Should Know

What are the Side Effects of a CT Scan?

In some cases, the patient is allergic to contrast material. Usually, the reaction of the contrast material is mild. It may lead to itching and rashes.

But sometimes it causes life-threatening side effects. The doctor monitors you for a short period of time after the CT scan to avoid any kind of emergency.

For safety purposes, tell your doctor if you have any allergies to medications, seafood, or iodine.

Your doctor should be aware of your medical history before performing a CT scan. Inform him or her if you have diabetes and if you are taking the drug metformin. He will guide you when to pause the medication before or after the CT scan procedure.

CT scan with contrast may also lead to kidney diseases. Consult your doctor if you face any kidney related issues after the CT scan procedure.

How to Reduce the Level of Radiation Exposure from CT Scan?

We know that a CT scan and other imaging procedures produce ionizing radiation. These radiations are harmful to the human body and lead to cancer like diseases. Several organizations and government agencies have provided various guidelines to reduce the risk of cancer.

  • In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took an initiative to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure from CT scans. This initiative includes avoiding repeated procedures, keeping low doses while maximizing image quality, and using imaging only when required.
  • The manufacturers of CT scan machines are trying to develop a new detecting system. The new system is aimed to provide higher quality with lower radiation.
  • ACR has introduced a Dose Index Registry. This registry collects information related to dose indices for all CT exams at participating facilities. This data can be used to compare radiology facilities and to establish national benchmarks.

Cost of CT Scan

We have described the benefits and side effects of CT scan procedure. Now you must be thinking about the cost.

CT scan cost may vary from hospital to hospital. Generally, it costs nearly Rs. 5000. This is an approximate cost, not fixed. You can check out the given link to get detailed information.

Click to know the CT Scan cost here.

Conclusion

CT scan is an amazing invention by medical science for the benefit of human beings. It is an imaging procedure that allows doctors to see inside the body. Computed Tomography assists doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases.

CT scan procedure produces ionizing radiation which is harmful to the body in different ways. In the above post, we have described various risk factors involved in this procedure. Ask your doctor about the benefits and side effects of the CT scan.

Also, Read About: Frequently Asked Question About CT Scan

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