Complete Guide To The CT Scan
For patients who suffer from chronic pain, Comprehensive Pain Specialists can provide pain management services. In order to do this, certain diagnostic tests may be required. One such test is a Computerized Tomography Scan.
What is a CT Scan
A computerized tomography (CT) scan, which is the same thing as a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan is a specialized type of x-ray that works by taking many images of the designated area. A computer interprets the images and a medical practitioner interprets the results.
The scan is used for diagnostic purposes. In relationship to chronic pain, the test is used to try and identify the source and cause of the pain. It is commonly used to study the brain, chest, abdomen and pelvic area. CT scans are useful in diagnosing various abnormalities, diseases, and conditions such as broken bones, cancer and vascular diseases.
For those suffering from chronic neck, back, and arm or leg pain, CT scans are particularly helpful in identifying disorders of the spinal cord and intervertebral discs. They can even measure bone density for diagnosing osteoporosis.
How do you prepare for a CT scan?
There is no standard preparation. In some cases, if there is a plan to use a contrasting dye, patients may be asked not to eat or drink anything for four to six hours prior to the test.
When patients get to the testing area, they will change into a hospital gown and remove all metal, such as belts as well as all jewelry. Patients are also asked to remove eyeglasses and dentures. These items will interfere with the clarity of the images if they are not removed for the test.
Patients are then placed on a moveable padded table. Depending on the body area being examined, pillows or straps may be used to position the body correctly and help hold it in place.
The CT Scan Procedure
What Does a CT Machine Look Like?
The CT scanning machine has been compared to a large doughnut. The patient, on the moveable examining table, travels somewhat slowly through the hole of the doughnut. Patients who suffer from claustrophobia may be given a calming sedative prior to being placed in the machine.
How long does it take to get a CAT scan?
The amount of time needed for the test depends on the body part being examined and whether or not any contrasting material needs to be injected. It may take just a few minutes or up to an hour.
Who Monitors the Test?
The technician does not stay in the room during the test, but monitors it from a booth just outside the testing room. Patients and technicians communicate through a microphone and speaker. At times, the technician may remind the patient to remain still so the image will not be blurred. Patients may be told to take a deep breath and hold it briefly, similar to what is required in some standard x-rays.
What is CT Scan With Contrast?
A contrast material may help a specific area being tested show up better in the CT image. The material is a type of dye that is usually injected intravenously (IV). Most frequently, it is injected in the arm or hand. In some cases, patients are asked to drink a liquid. In other situations, it may be given in an enema. When given orally, the patient may have a brief metallic taste and experience a warm feeling throughout their body. These feelings last just a few seconds.
What are the Risks of a Ct Scan?
There are really no risks to a non-invasive CT scan other than a brief exposure to radiation. If it becomes minimally invasive due to the injection of contrast material, there are still very few risks. The primary one may be if the patient has an allergy to the contrast material. Even then, technicians are prepared to watch for signs of an allergic reaction and provide appropriate treatment.
When the test is over:
Those who received a contrast material may be asked to wait for a brief period of time to be sure they have no after-effects. Otherwise, they are discharged and there are no restrictions.
Results: A radiologist will review the images and send the results to the referring physician who can then establish a pain management care plan.