CT Scans: Here Are Your FAQs Answered

Are you advised to undergo a CT scan? Here is some information you should know before you go through the procedure. Read to learn about what a CT scan is, its indications, risks, and more.

What is a CT scan?

A CT scan, or computed tomography scan, is a special scanning method that helps your doctor view your bones, muscles and other body structures. A CT scanner produces X-rays that pass through your body, resulting in images that give details of your internal structures.

Why is a CT scan advised?

  • To diagnose internal bleeding, injuries, cancer
  • To determine the exact site of a tumour, infection, or blood clot
  • To guide procedures such as biopsy, surgery and radiation therapy
  • To evaluate the efficiency and outcome of treatment

What is a contrast CT scan?

Contrast CT or contrast-enhanced CT scan is a procedure that utilises an iodine-based contrast medium. It can be either injected into the body or you will be asked to drink it as a solution before taking the CT scan. This is done to highlight certain structures such as blood vessels which are otherwise difficult to delineate from nearby areas.
What to Expect During a CT Scan

Is a CT scan harmful to me?

CT scans use X-rays to obtain images of your internal body structures. Exposure to X-rays slightly puts you at risk of developing cancer. However, this risk is very minimal and the benefits of a CT scan always outweigh the risk.

What are the risks of a CT scan?

  • Exposure to radiation

The dose of X-ray radiation used in CT is higher than that used in conventional X-rays. This may slightly increase your risk of cancer. But the information provided is vital for the diagnosis of your condition and for planning its treatment. The benefits of CT scans outweigh the potential risks. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about the risk of cancer.

  • Allergy to contrast media

The contrast media that you drink or are injected with are usually safe. However, some people may develop allergic reactions. If you have a previous history of allergies to iodine or contrast agents, let your doctor know about it beforehand. Even if there is an allergy, it will usually be mild in the form of itching or rashes. In case there is a severe allergic reaction, your radiology centre will be equipped to handle it

  • Risk in pregnant women

The X-ray radiation used in CT scans has not been shown to cause any damage to the foetus. However, there may be a slight risk of the baby developing cancer as a child if exposed to radiation. Inform your doctors beforehand if you suspect that you are pregnant.

What is the usual duration of a CT scan?

CT scans usually take under 15 minutes from start to finish. If you are taking a contrast CT it may take a longer time. After the scan, a specialist will read the images and issue a report of the findings.

What do I expect during the scan?

For a CT scan to be taken, you lie in a tunnel-like machine that records the image. You will have to stay still because your movements may cause blurring of the image. The series of images recorded will be sent to the computer which reconstructs it to form a final image.

How do I overcome my claustrophobia during a CT scan?

If you are claustrophobic and have to undergo a CT scan, remember that it is a short procedure that is going to take very little time. Keeping the eyes closed during the scan may be helpful. Talk to your doctor about your apprehensions, as they will be able to help you out with your claustrophobia.

How do I prepare for a CT scan?

  • Remove all the jewellery and any removable metallic objects that you’re wearing
  • Take off your clothes and switch to the hospital gown provided by the radiology centre
  • Avoid eating and drinking at least 4 hours before the scan if you are going to have an oral contrast CT study

Will a CT scan be painful?

No, CT scans are not painful procedures.

Is a CT scan safe during pregnancy?

Although X-rays from a CT scan are too mild to cause any damage to the foetus, it’s best to avoid them if you are pregnant. Inform your doctor about your pregnancy before your CT is planned. Your doctor may prescribe an alternative scanning procedure for you.
Dr. Sosa

Dr. Sosa


An oral physician turned medical writer who writes profoundly about medicine and diseases. Read her contributions and writings about various healthcare topics.

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