What Is CT Scanning?
A computed tomography scan, also called CT scan or sometimes CAT scan,
is a type of imaging that uses a special x-ray machine and powerful computers
to generate images of the inside of the body. These images are viewed
on a computer screen as highly detailed cross-sectional "slices"
of the organs, bones and soft tissues.
At Torrance Memorial Medical Center, our Department of Radiology is equipped
with state-of-the-art CT scanners, allowing our physicians to diagnose
and stage disease with the highest confidence. CT scans are comfortable
and quick, and results are available quickly.
Torrance Memorial is proud that its CT facility has been accredited by
the American College of Radiology. To achieve this distinction, the center
undergoes continuous, rigorous reviews to demonstrate the highest standards
of quality and safety in computed tomography.
What Are The Benefits of a CT Scans?
- A CT scan is painless, non-invasive, and quick to perform.
- CT scanning gives detailed views of many types of tissues, including the
lungs, bones, soft tissues and blood vessels.
- CT images can be used to help guide biopsies and offer treatment, often
eliminating the need for invasive surgery and surgical biopsy.
What Are The Risk of a CT Scans?
- CT scanning does involve exposure to radiation, although the benefit of
an accurate diagnosis typically far outweighs the risk.
- Nursing mothers should wait 24 hours after contrast material injection
before resuming breast-feeding.
- Though uncommon, some people can have an adverse reaction to the contrast material.
You should talk to your doctor to learn if there are any other benefits
and risks specific to your procedure.
What Will the Exam Be Like?
You will lie comfortably on the motorized CT exam table. Pillows will be
placed under or around you to help keep you still in the proper position.
The table will move slowly into the CT scanner. You will be alone in the
room, but the radiologist or technologist can see you and will be in constant
communication with you through speakers in the room. The x-ray machine
often makes whirring sounds as it moves around and captures pictures.
Patients rarely experience claustrophobia with this type of exam, due
to both the design of the scanner and the ultra-fast exam times.
Depending on the type of the exam your doctor has requested, the technologist
may give you a material called a contrast agent (or "dye") that
makes it easier to see certain tissues or blood vessels. The contrast
material may be swallowed, injected into the bloodstream, or administered by enema.
If intravenous contrast material is used, a technologist or radiology nurse
will ask you whether you have any allergies, especially to medication
or iodine, and whether you have a history of diabetes, asthma, a heart
condition, kidney or thyroid problems. These conditions may give you a
higher chance of reacting to the contrast material or having problems
eliminating the material from your body after the exam.
You may be asked to drink a liquid contrast material, especially if the
radiologist needs to see the stomach, small bowel, and colon. Most commonly
the CT exam is performed 1-2 hours after you have finished drinking the
contrast to allow time for it to fill your intestines before the pictures
In some circumstances your doctor may request that contrast material be
given by enema to better evaluate the colon. As the contrast material
goes into your colon, you may feel full and have some cramping or a desire
to empty your bowel. These are very common sensations, and most people
tolerate the exam well.
Most often, the contrast material is injected through a vein in your arm.
You will feel a minor pinch or sting with the injection, and you may feel
flushed and warm or even have a metallic taste in your mouth. These are
normal reactions to contrast material and won't last more than a minute
or two. Occasionally, some people feel a slight itching sensation. If
it lasts or if hives develop, you may be given a medicine to relieve the
itch. Very rarely, difficulty breathing or swelling in the throat or other
parts of the body can happen. If you experience these symptoms, tell the
radiologist or technologist immediately.
The contrast material will be naturally eliminated from your body within
a few hours to a day or two depending on the area examined and the type
of contrast material used.
A CT exam in one of Torrance Memorial's state-of-the-art scanners typically
takes less than 5 minutes depending on the type of exam ordered.
What Does the Equipment Look Like?
A CT scanner is a large, square machine with a hole in the center. It has
a motorized exam table attached that can be moved up and down or forward
and backward through the opening. Hidden inside the machine is an X-ray
tube that moves around your body to capture the images.
How Should I Prepare for the Exam?
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your exam. Metal objects can
affect the images, so avoid wearing clothing with zippers and snaps.
- You will be asked to remove anything metallic that might affect the quality
of the images, including hairpins, jewelry, eyeglasses, hearing aids and
any removable dental work.
- For some CT scans your doctor may instruct you not to eat or drink for
one or more hours before your exam.
- Inform your doctor of any allergies you have to foods or medications, and
especially to iodine.
- Inform your doctor of any recent illnesses or medical conditions.
- Always inform your doctor and the technologist if you are pregnant or think
there is a possibility you may be pregnant.
How Will You Learn About Your Results?
The technologist will not give you the test results directly, as the images
still need to be reviewed by a radiologist. After reviewing the study,
the radiologist will send an official report to your physician, who can
then discuss the results with you.
For More Information
For more information on these types of exams please visit
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