Computed Tomography Services at Palomar Health

What is Computed Tomography?

Computed Axial Tomography ("CT" or "CAT" scan) is a way of looking inside your body using a computer and camera. The images produced are "cross-sectional" images. These images are created with the help of a computer and are capable of depicting various internal body parts in much greater detail than standard x-ray films, which greatly enhances the doctor's ability to diagnose a medical condition.

Common uses of this procedure.

CT scans have many uses including the detection of abscesses, strokes, head injuries and internal bleeding. In cancer detection, computed tomography is used to scan for abnormal masses which might be malignant tumors (cancers). CT scans can also show the size and shape of a tumor, its precise location in the body and whether it's solid or hollow.

How does it work?

The CT scanner contains a large donut-shaped ring that your body slowly passes through on a moveable table. As you pass through the ring, the scanner takes a complete 360 degree picture of you that is sent to its computer. Then the mechanical table moves a small distance positioning you for the next picture. These pictures can then be reconstructed to form a complete image of your internal anatomy. To make a clearer picture of certain parts of your body, some CT scans require the use of contrast materials, which are substances showing up as pure white on the X-ray. Two types of contrast materials used are barium, which you usually drink, and iodine, which is usually injected by means of an I.V. (intravenous line).

What should I expect?

The test itself is completely painless. You will be asked to lie on the CT scanner's padded table during the study. Depending on the type of study being done, you may be injected with, or be asked to drink contrast material. Because contrast agents contain iodine, which causes an allergic reaction in some individuals, be sure to tell the technologist, nurse or radiologist if you have had an allergic reaction to these agents before or if you have any other allergies.

Patient Preparation

You will be asked to change into a gown for most CT scans. Metal objects can affect the image, so avoid clothing with zippers and snaps. You may be asked to remove hairpins, jewelry, eyeglasses, hearing aids and any removable dental work. You may also be asked to refrain from eating or drinking anything for 3 hours before the exam. Women should always inform their doctor or the radiologic technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.

Exam Results.

Your exam will be read and a report will be phoned, faxed or mailed to your physician promptly. He/she will share the results with you.