Patients should prepare for a CT scan by discussing the procedure with their doctors, disclosing their complete medical history, and understanding the potential risks, which includes exposure to radiation. A computerized tomography (CT) scan is a diagnostic procedure in which x-rays are taken to create images of the body. In comparison to a surgical procedure, the preparation for a diagnostic imaging test is minimal, and patients should expect to return to their normal activities immediately following the procedure.
Patients should meet with their doctors prior to the procedure to prepare for a CT scan. They should begin by disclosing any medical conditions they have, including whether they are claustrophobic. Those who have trouble coping with small spaces may receive a sedative to help them relax. Small children in particular may need a sedative, because it is essential that they remain still throughout the scan.
Certain medical conditions may prevent a person from undergoing a CT scan. Those who are pregnant may be unable to have this type of test, and those with any heart conditions, including heart failure may also be unable to undergo it. A CT scan may be contraindicated for use by those with asthma, kidney problems, or diabetes, as well as multiple myeloma and certain allergies. Patients with implanted medical devices, such as a pacemaker, may need to use an alternative diagnostic test. The doctor will need to know if the patient has had an x-ray test with barium contrast material in the previous four days, because this will interfere with the CT scan results.
Some people will need to prepare for a CT scan by limiting their diet prior to the procedure, depending on whether they will require a sedative, and which areas of the body are going to be scanned. If the doctor requires images of the patient's abdomen, the patient must refrain from eating solid foods for a brief period of time. He may also need to take laxatives or have an enema performed to empty the intestines.
When the patient arrives at the hospital, he may be asked to disrobe and wear a hospital gown, depending on which area of the body will be scanned. All metal objects, such as jewelry and watches, must be removed. Some CT scans may require the use of a contrast material, which makes certain areas of the body more visible on the images. To prepare for a CT scan with contrast material, the patient may need to swallow a special drink, receive a barium enema, or receive an intravenous injection. Then, he will lie on a table inside the scanner while the images are being taken.