Computerized Tomography - Chest

What is a CT chest scan?

CT ChestA chest scan can simultaneously show many different types of tissue, including the lungs, heart, bones, soft tissues, muscle and blood vessels.

Some people have chosen to have a chest CT scan or Wellness Scan to screen for lung cancer.  This is most useful for those who are former or current smokers, as their risks for cancer are much higher than that of a non-smoker.  Finding cancer early allows for a better cure. A CT scan is able to find very small abnormalities that could be the beginning of lung cancer, which wouldn’t be visible on a regular chest x-ray.  A special low-dose CT technique is used for lung cancer screening.  No contrast is used for this procedure.

How should I prep for my chest scan?

You should dress comfortably but avoid any clothing in the chest area that has a zipper, snaps or jewelry, since metal objects may affect the CT images. Women should always inform their physician or the technologist if they are or may be pregnant.

How is the CAT scan performed?

The first step is for the technologist to make certain that you are correctly positioned on the CT table.  The best chest scans are obtained when you are able to hold your breath to lessen the chance of blurring of the pictures.  If it is not possible for you to hold your breath, you will be asked to breathe quietly and regularly.

In certain procedures you will have contrast material injected into a vein shortly before scanning begins.  If this is necessary, you will be asked whether you have any allergies to medications or iodine (part of many contrast materials) and whether you have a history of asthma, diabetes, heart disorders, multiple myeloma or kidney disease.  These conditions may indicate a greater risk of a negative reaction to the contrast material.

After your examination you will be asked to wait a short time while the radiologist reviews the scans to make sure the quality is good enough to be interpreted.

What will I experience during my exam?

CT scanning is a pain free procedure.  If contrast material is injected you may feel a flush of heat or a metallic taste in your mouth.  This usually does not last more than a few minutes.  The exam takes around 15-30 minutes.

Risks

CT exams require the use of radiation to complete, however, the risk is considered so low that it is outweighed by the benefits of making a correct diagnosis.   If you are nursing and receive contrast material for the procedure, you should wait 24 hours before resuming breast-feeding to allow your body to eliminate the contrast.   There is a small risk of having an allergic reaction to the contrast material, as it contains iodine.