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What Are CT Scan Protocols?

By Glyn Sinclair
Updated May 17, 2024
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A Computerized Tomography (CT) scan involves a series of X-rays taken of the body that combine to produce multi-sectional images of the bones and soft tissue. The images are then able to be visualized in a 3-D format. There are a number of CT scan protocols that anyone undergoing the procedure typically has to adhere to. These can include not drinking or eating anything prior to the test, informing the physician about medication history and illness, wearing loose-fitting clothes, and having a contrast dye injected into the blood vessels. The contrast solutions can also be ingested orally in certain circumstances.

A physician may order a CT scan when the underlying reason for a medical problem is not readily apparent during a normal check up. Part of the CT scan protocols require the patient to lie down on a padded table and be lightly restrained to prevent movement, and then inserted into the machine itself. During the procedure the patient will often be asked to hold their breath for the actual image taking. They will also hear a series of buzzing sounds, but these are perfectly normal and is simply the scanner taking the image. Sometimes people can feel a slight sensation of claustrophobia, but this should be helped by the constant communication between the patient and CT technician via an intercom system.

Although CT scans are a helpful tool in detecting and diagnosing certain disorders, they are not without risk. They employ ionizing radiation as a method for imaging the body, and as such, there is the potential for harmful side effects. One of the CT scan protocols involves a contrasting dye injected into the vein and this may also be linked to disorders such as renal impairment and allergic reactions. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can sometimes be an alternative to a CT scan as they use powerful magnets to image the body instead of radiation. CT imaging is considered to be more precise in imaging coronary vessels.

There are a variety of reasons that a physician may require a patient to undergo a CT scan. Some of these can include looking for internal injury, blood clots, tumors and internal bleeding. The scans can be employed by surgeons as part of their preoperative strategies. A physician will often use a CT scan to further confirm a diagnosis or finding from regular X-rays. Whatever the reason for imaging the body, all of the procedures require some kind of CT scan protocols to take into account.

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