Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)
Amy Leslie, ATC, LAT
What is a CT scan?
Computed Tomography Scan (CT scan), or CAT scan as it is sometimes called, uses special x-ray equipment to take image data from different angles around the body. Afterwards a computer processes the information and shows a cross-section of body tissues and organs.
What is a CT Scan used for?
There are a variety of uses for the CT scan. It can be used for studying the chest and abdomen in diagnosing an array of cancers, including lung, liver, and pancreatic cancer. CT scans are also used for diagnosing and treating spinal problems, as well as injuries to the hands, feet, and other skeletal structures including osteoporosis. A CT scan can also help detect, diagnosis, and treat vascular diseases that can lead to stroke, kidney failure, or even death.
What are the risks of having a CT Scan?
CT does involve exposure to radiation in the form of x-rays, but the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk. The effective radiation dose from this procedure is about 10 mSv, which is about the same as what the average person receives from background radiation in three years.
The patient is always protected by shielding the abdomen and pelvis with a lead apron, with the exception of those examinations in which the abdomen and pelvis are being imaged; therefore it is important for women to tell their doctors if they are pregnant or think they are pregnant. Nursing mothers should wait 24 hours after contrast injection before resuming breast feeding.
There is a risk of serious allergic reaction to iodine-containing contrast material. But it is rare and radiology departments are well equipped to deal with them. People with a history of diabetes, asthma, a heart condition, kidney problems, or thyroid conditions should not undergo a CT scan; these 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.
What is it like getting a CT scan?
The technologist begins by positioning the patient on the CT table. The patient’s body may be supported by pillows to help hold it still and in the proper position during the scan. If contrast materials are used, they are administered now. As the study proceeds, the table will move slowly into the CT scanner. Depending on the area 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. Depending on the type of exam the patient will receive, the length of the actual procedure will typically be between 10 minutes and 45 minutes. A few involved CT examinations take longer than 45 minutes. When the exam is over the patient may be asked to wait until the images are examined to determine if more images are needed.
Who administers CT Scans?
The computed tomography patient care team is headed by a radiologist. The radiologist is a physician with specialist training (residency or fellowship training) who may be board-certified. After obtaining his or her medical doctorate (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) degree, these physicians have additional special radiological training making them eligible for examination by the American Board of Radiology. This training includes special instruction in the safe use of x-ray radiation and the use and interpretation of CT images. Other team members include CT technologists and often a nurse who specializes in administering injections.
A CT technologist is specially trained to operate the sophisticated CT systems. Typically, CT technologists have had two or more years of training in x-ray and computed tomography and are certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
Amy Leslie, ATC, is a first year graduate student and recipient of the Hughston Athletic Training Fellowship Program in Columbus, Georgia. Ms. Leslie, a native of Raleigh, NC, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Greensboro College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training in May 2008. While attending GC she completed rotations with football, men’s basketball, men’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, men’s lacrosse, Urgent Family and Medical Care, Murphy Wainer Orthopedic Specialists, Greensboro Orthopaedics, and Southeast Guilford High School. Amy was a member of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society, Alpha Chi Inter-Disciplinary Honor Society, and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities &Colleges. She served as President of GC’s Athletic Training Club from 2007-2008 and is an active member of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA). Amy has been assigned to serve as the head athletic trainer at Jordan Vocational High School. Visit Hughston Clinic