What can I Expect During a CT Lung Scan?

Traci Behringer

A computed tomography (CT) lung scan is a noninvasive X-ray examination. Its purpose is to create precise images inside the body, specifically the lungs in this case. The term "noninvasive" refers to the fact that doctors don't "invade" the body with surgical instruments to perform a CT lung scan. The images produced from such a scan are a little more in depth than a typical X-ray examination.

A CT lung scan is a noninvasive X-ray examination.
A CT lung scan is a noninvasive X-ray examination.

If you need to undergo a CT lung scan, it's always beneficial to know what you're getting yourself into. Including preparation, each scan will take about 30 minutes. The time actually spent scanning is actually very short, usually just a few minutes. During the scan, a tube hovers around your body and makes whirring, clicking and buzzing noises. This is the scanner taking the pictures.

Patients will be required to lie very still during a CT lung scan.
Patients will be required to lie very still during a CT lung scan.

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Before the scan, you will be asked to remove any eyeglasses, jewelry or other metallic objects. Additionally, the technician may ask you to remove any dentures or hearing aids. It's important to tell the technician if any part of your chest is pierced, because it may interfere with the examination.

Above all, you will be expected to sit still and not move your body, because this can blur the images. Specifically, the technician will tell you to be still and hold your breath from time to time. The restrictions on movement mean you may want to arrive wearing loose, comfortable clothing that won't make you want to squirm. The technician will sit in another room, separated by a glass window and accessible via speaker.

As a noninvasive procedure, a CT lung scan is painless. Nonetheless, you may feel nervous or anxious, especially if you typically fear enclosed or tight spaces. Make sure to bring this up with the technician, who may allow you to have some medicine to soothe your nerves.

Make sure to tell your doctor if you suffer from certain conditions. These conditions can include allergies, recent illnesses, asthma, kidney disease, heart disease or thyroid problems. All of these can adversely affect a CT lung scan.

It is also important to let the doctor know whether you are pregnant or may be pregnant. When this is the case, it is always best to avoid radiation exposure when it isn't necessary. This is because of the potential harm that radiation can cause a fetus.

In the event that you are pregnant, you and your doctor will have to decide whether the benefits of having a CT lung scan outweigh the potential harm to the fetus or if another test is the best answer. Should you go through with the scan, the technician will go to extra measures to ensure the safety of the fetus.

An iodine-based contrast dye is commonly used for CT scans.
An iodine-based contrast dye is commonly used for CT scans.

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