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CT Scan (General)
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

CT Scan (General) Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


A CT scan uses x-ray technology to take multiple cross-sectional views of the inside of the body. Compared to regular x-rays , a CT scan can take clearer images of organs, bone, soft tissue, blood vessels, and other areas of the body.

CT Scan of the Head
CT Scan of the Head
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

  • Before the test, your doctor will likely ask about:
  • Your medical history
  • Medicines you take
  • Allergies
  • Whether you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • Leading up to your test, follow your doctor’s instructions regarding any changes in how you take your medicines and any restrictions on your eating and drinking.
  • At the healthcare facility:
  • A healthcare professional will explain the test and answers any questions you may have.
  • You will remove your clothes and put on a gown or robe.
  • You will remove all jewelry, hair clips, dentures, and other objects that could show on the x-rays and make the images hard to read.
  • If your CT scan includes oral contrast material, you will need to drink the contrast material at this time.

Description of the Test

You will lie (usually on your back) on a movable bed. The bed will slide into the donut-shaped CT scanner. Depending on the type of scan, an IV line may be placed in your hand or arm. A saline solution and contrast material may be injected during the test. The technologist will leave the room. She will give you directions via an intercom. The machine will take a series of pictures of the area of your body that is being studied. Your bed may move slightly between pictures.

After Test

You will need to wait for the technician to review your images. In some cases, more images will need to be taken.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10-15 minutes

Will It Hurt?

You may feel warm and flushed if contrast material is injected into your vein. Otherwise, you should feel no pain.


The CT images will be sent to a radiologist who will analyze them. Your doctor will receive the results and discuss them with you.



National Library of Medicine

Radiological Society of North America


Canadian Association of Radiologists

Canadian Radiation Protection Association


Computed tomography (CT)—body. Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: . Accessed May 29, 2007.

CT scan: a guide for patients. Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital website. Available at: . Accessed May 29, 2007.



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