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Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Computed Tomography (CT)


Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Computed Tomography (CT) Scan Exam?

Why Is CT Performed?

What Can I Expect During a CT Examination?

Why Are Oral And Intravenous Contrast Used In CT?

How Long Will My CT Examination Take?

Do I Need A Referral (Prescription) To Have My CT Examination?

What If I Am Claustrophobic?

Is a CT Examination Safe?

When Will I Know the Results Of My Examination?

What Should I Do to Prepare for a Computed Tomography (CT) Scan Exam?

What Is a Computed Tomography (CT) Scan Exam?

Computed Tomography (otherwise known as CT or "CAT" scanning) combines advanced computers and rotating x-rays to create highly detailed cross sectional computer generated images of body parts and internal organs in order to detect different disease processes. The exam is fast, patient friendly and has the unique ability to detect and diagnose a wide variety of medical conditions and abnormalities. It is frequently used as the primary diagnostic tool for early detection of tumors, infection, inflammatory conditions, stroke, obstructions, trauma and kidney stones. At The Woodlands Open MRI & Imaging Centers, these examinations are performed by certified x-ray technologists, and every examination is directly supervised and interpreted by board certified specialists in diagnostic radiology.

Why Is CT Performed?

CT can provide detailed cross sectional images and diagnostic information for nearly every part of the body that cannot be provided by conventional x-ray studies:

  • Head: including the brain, eyes, inner ear, and sinuses

  • Neck: including the throat, larynx, lymph nodes, salivary glands and thyroid gland

  • Chest: including the lungs, aorta, heart and mediastinum

  • Abdomen: including the liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, bile ducts, gallbladder, aorta and bowel

  • Pelvis: including the prostate, female reproductive organs, bladder and bowel

  • Skeletal system: including the hand, feet, hips, and facial bones

  • Spine: including the lumbar and cervical spine

What Can I Expect During a CT Examination?

If your examination is of the abdomen or pelvis, you will be asked to arrive 1 hour prior to your examination to drink oral contrast, which will allow for a better evaluation of the bowel.

Although many examinations do not require intravenous injection of contrast, in some cases it may be required to optimize your study. This will be discussed with you in detail by one of our staff members at the time of your visit.

When it is time for the exam, the patient is positioned by a technologist on the CT table. Once situated, the table moves through a doughnut shaped ring called a gantry. This allows the body part that is being studied to be "scouted" by electroThe Woodlands Open MRI & Imaging Center sensors and then viewed on a monitor. For many types of examinations you will be asked to hold your breath and remain still for a few moments. With our high-speed spiral ("helical") scanner, image acquisition is so rapid, that breath holding is usually 20 seconds or less. Most examinations are completed in 10 to 15 minutes.

There is continuous intercom commuThe Woodlands Open MRI & Imaging Centeration with the technologist and the Radiologist who are stationed adjacent to the machine through a clear glass wall.

Why Are Oral And Intravenous Contrast Used In CT?

Oral contrast is used to image the stomach and intestines. It is a very dilute, flavored barium solution that you drink approximately 1 hour prior to an examination.

Intravenous contrast is sometimes referred to as "dye". Although colorless, it contains iodine, which makes specific organs, blood vessels, and tissues visible on x-rays for better detection of disease or injury. It is not radioactive. We only use "non-ioThe Woodlands Open MRI & Imaging Center" contrast, which is formulated to minimize any risk of an allergic reaction. The risks and benefits of contrast will be explained to you when you arrive for your examination. Occasionally, mild allergic reactions may occur such as hives, rash or itching. In rare instances a patient may have a more severe allergic reaction, which might include difficulty breathing, swelling in the throat, or loss of consciousness. Our staff is fully trained and experienced to manage any potential adverse reaction.

Patients will be asked, and should notify our staff, if they have a history of allergy to IV contrast or iodine injections, diabetes, asthma, kidney disease, severe heart disease, multiple myeloma, sickle cell disease or are if they are taking glucophage.

How Long Will My CT Examination Take?

The CT scan itself is 10-15 minutes. However, to ensure optimum results and patient safety, you will be asked to fill out a medical questionnaire and you will be interviewed by one of our staff before your examination. If applicable, contrast administration will be discussed and administered. A Radiologist will review the image quality of your study before you leave. Your visit should be less than 45 minutes (longer if you need to arrive early to drink oral contrast for a abdomen or pelvic CT).

Do I Need A Referral (Prescription) To Have My CT Examination?

Yes, your doctor must provide a referral (prescription) in order for you to receive a examination. In addition, some insurance carriers or HMO’s require a precertification. Please discuss this with your doctor and your insurance company or HMO prior to your test.

What If I Am Claustrophobic?

Because the CT is open at both ends (like a doughnut), most claustrophobic patients have little difficulty with the procedure. If you are severely claustrophobic, you might ask your doctor to consider a mild sedative.

Is a CT Examination Safe?

Our state of the art Spiral CT equipment produces a very low dose of x-ray exposure with negligible adverse effects. It is not much different than the exposure from "background environmental radiation" from the sun, air travel, television or computer screens.

When Will I Know The Results Of My Examination?

A Radiologist will review your study before you leave the Center to determine if the information is complete. Preliminary results will be sent promptly to your physician and a detailed written report of the procedure, findings, and results will follow within several days. Your physician will then call you to discuss the results. Urgent results will be telephoned immediately to your doctor.

What Should I Do to Prepare for a Computed Tomography (CT) Scan Exam?

Patients are encouraged to bring something to read in case there is an unexpected delay or emergency case. It is preferable that you wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing (especially shirt or blouse). You may be asked to remove any clothing or jewelry that might degrade the CT images, such as, belt buckles, earrings, bras, glasses, dentures, and hairpins.

If your examination is of the abdomen or pelvis, you will be asked to arrive 1 hour prior to your examination to drink oral contrast to better evaluate the bowel.

For the following examinations, do not eat 4 hours before test. However, please take your prescription medication, as you normally would, with clear liquids only:

  • Chest

  • Abdomen and/or Pelvis
    (Arrive 1 Hour Prior to Exam to Drink Oral Contrast)

  • Neck/Salivary Glands/Face

  • Cervical Spine

  • Brain

For The Following, No Special Preparation Is Needed:

  • Sinus

  • Inner Ear/Mastoid/Temporal Bones

  • Lumbar Spine

  • Skeletal (Bone) Structures

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