Diagnostic Imaging CT Scan Its Uses, Preparation and Risks

Computer tomography (CT) is a diagnostic tool which is used for the diagnosis of various conditions in the body. CT scan uses radiation to produce scan images of the inside of the body. The scan images are used to look for the cause of unexplained cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever and other chest symptoms. CT scan is a pain free, accurate and quick diagnostic technique. Computers are used to collect the scanned information and then display it on the computer. The images can be stored for future references.

What Are the Uses of a CT Scan?

Doctors might order a CT scan to

  • Visualise abnormalities of the chest
  • Help in diagnosis of certain signs and symptoms of chest disease like cough, shortness of breath, fever, chest pain etc.
  • evaluate the tumours spread whether it has spread to other body parts
  • Assessing the tumours are going well with he treatment
  • Detects chest injuries like heart injuries, blood vessels, lungs, ribs or spine injury.

CT can be used to determine various disorders like

  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Tumours- benign and malignant
  • Inflammatory conditions or other diseases pertaining to the lung pleura.

How to Prepare for a CT Scan?

If you are to get a computed tomography, you should follow the instructions that are given by your healthcare provider. Some of them are-

  • Precautions- If you are pregnant, you should inform your healthcare provider, they will decide the appropriate diagnostic modality. Radiation based imaging is usually avoided during pregnancy unless otherwise indicated.
  • Clothes– You will need to change your clothes and wear a hospital gown for the scan. Any kind of jewellery is not allowed during the scan (earrings, necklace, watches, belts etc.)
  • Contrast- If you are having a contrast based study, you will be asked to sign a consent form that mentions all the possible risks and benefits of the CTscan.
  • Allergy- If you have had contrast based scan before and developed allergic reactions, it is important to mention it to your healthcare provider. In that case, they will take necessary precautions, preparation and monitoring. If you have an allergy to other known allergens, you should notify your healthcare provider.
  • Eat/drink- If you are having a NCCT- non-contrast based computer tomography, you can eat and drink as usual. If you are having a contrast based study, you should not eat anything 4-6 hours before the scan. Although you can drink clear fluids.
  • Disease and medication– You should inform your doctor about any diseases like kidney disease or diabetes. If you are on diabetic medication you might be instructed to not take your medication for 48 hours after the exam.

What Are the Risks Associated With a CT Scan?

  • Children and fetuses are more susceptible to the radiation hence they should avoid it unless necessary and indicated by the doctor in such cases, in such cases advanced diagnostic test is needed MRI scan is used as it doesn’t use radiation to produce scan images but uses magnetism and radiowaves instead.
  • CT scan uses radiations which can be a cause for potential DNA damage. The DNA damage can lead to carcinogenic growth of cells, leading to cancer. The incidence of someone developing cancer due to single exposure is very rare although cumulative effect can affect.
  • Sometimes a radioactive contrast dye is used during the CT scan, the contrast de can cause allergic reactions in some people which may start with itching, redness and pain. You should inform your doctor as soon as you feel the first symptom of allergy as sometimes it can lead to a fatal allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock.
  • If you already have kidney problems, contrast can cause complications like kidney failure. This is why you should inform your doctor about any health problem beforehand.
  • Certain factors can render the scan images altered like-
    • Recent barium study, where barium in oesophagus is left
    • If you have any body piercings
    • Any metal objects present in chestlike- stents, cardiac pacemakers etc.


CT scan is an advanced diagnostic tool that can help in diagnosis and evaluation of various health problems. The most important question that arises in your mind is about the price of CT scan, the answer has a variability. The cost of CT scan depends upon various factors like the availability of a CT machine in the centre, the location of the diagnostic centre, and others. Diagnosing the condition stands utmost important, and diagnosing a disease early in its course has more value and improved prognosis as well.

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