Computerized Tomography - Abdomen

What are some common uses for a CT abdomen procedure?

CT AbdomenBecause it is a non-invasive procedure that provides detailed, cross-sectional views of all types of tissue, CT is becoming the preferred method for diagnosing many diseases of the bowel and colon, including diverticulitis and appendicitis, and for visualizing the liver, spleen, pancreas and kidneys. In cases of acute abdominal distress, CT can quickly identify the source of pain, especially when pain is caused by infection and inflammation, the speed, ease and accuracy of a CT examination can reduce the risk of serious complications caused by a burst appendix or ruptured diverticulum and the subsequent spread of infection.

CT is often the preferred method for diagnosing many different cancers since the image allows a physician to confirm the presence of a tumor and to measure its size, precise location, and the extent of the tumor's involvement with other nearby tissue. CT examinations of the lower GI tract can be used to plan and properly administer radiation treatments for tumors, and to guide biopsies and other minimally invasive procedures. CT can also play a significant role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of vascular disorders that can lead to stroke, gangrene or kidney failure.

How should I prepare for the procedure?

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your CT exam. Metal objects can affect the image, so avoid clothing with zippers and snaps. You may be asked to remove hairpins, jewelry, eyeglasses, hearing aids and any removable dental work that could obscure the images. You also may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking anything for an hour or longer before the exam. Women should always inform their doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.

How is the procedure performed?

The technologist begins by positioning the patient on the CT table and supporting his body with pillows to help hold him still and in the proper position during the scan. As the study proceeds, the table will move slowly into the CT scanner. Depending on the part of the body being examined, the increments of movement may be so small that they are almost undetectable, or large enough that the patient feels the sensation of motion.

A CT examination of the gastrointestinal tract requires the use of a contrast material to enhance the visibility of certain tissues. The contrast material may be swallowed or administered by enema. Before administering the contrast material, the radiologist or technologist will ask whether the patient has any allergies, especially to medications or iodine, and whether the patient has a history of diabetes, asthma, a heart condition, kidney problems or thyroid conditions. These conditions may indicate a higher risk of reaction to the contrast material or potential problems eliminating the material from the patient's system after the exam.

A CT examination usually takes five minutes to half an hour. When the exam is over, the patient may be asked to wait until the images are examined to determine if more images are needed.

What will I experience during the procedure?

CT scanning should not hurt, and with spiral CT, the need to lie still for any length of time is reduced. For examinations of the abdomen and lower gastrointestinal tract, you may be asked to swallow water or a positive contrast material, a liquid that allows the radiologist to better see the stomach, small bowel and colon. Some patients find the taste of the contrast material mildly unpleasant, but most can easily tolerate it. Your exam may require the administration of the material by enema if the colon is the focus of the study.

You will be alone in the room during the scan; however, the technologist can see, hear and speak with you at all times. In pediatric patients, a parent may be allowed in the room with the patient to alleviate fear, but will be required to wear a lead apron to prevent radiation exposure.

Who interprets the exam and how do I get them?

A radiologist will analyze the images and send a signed report with his interpretation to your referring physician who will go over your results with you.