If you’re having a CT scan for the first time, you may be nervous about what to expect. However, CT scans are painless, and are now a normal procedure, given the significant advances in technology. Knowledge, however, is power, and by researching on the scan and diagnostic centre beforehand, and by asking questions, you can ensure a smooth experience and a fruitful scan that results in an accurate diagnosis.
Here are 5 important facts to know before you get your CT.
If you’re new to scans and are choosing a CT centre for the first time, read this resource first.
1) Can you have an MRI/ultrasound scan instead of a CT scan? What’s the difference?
An MRI scan, an ultrasound, and a CT scan have very different purposes, and help doctors get a clearer picture of different parts of the body, in different ways. For example, parts of the body that contain calcium (like bones), or air (like lungs), may not be clearly visible on an MRI or ultrasound scan, which is when a CT scan is recommended. Further, in emergency cases, such as when a patient has suffered an injury to the head, a CT scan is preferable, since it is quicker than an MRI scan. In trauma cases, patients may not be in a position to be sedated, and may move during the scan. MRI scans are highly sensitive to movement, resulting in ‘motion artifacts’ in the scan, which can affect the diagnosis. On the other hand, CT scans are relatively less susceptible to motion artifacts.
Your doctor and radiologist will suggest the best scan option for you, based on your specific case. However, never hesitate to ask your doctor for options.
2) Why do you need a contrast dye, and what should I know?
A contrast agent helps highlight some internal structures of your body, allowing your doctor/radiologist to provide a more accurate diagnosis. It’s like holding a spotlight over certain problem areas in the body. If you’re getting a scan with contrast dye, you will be asked to fast for 3 hours prior to the procedure. The dye will be administered 45 minutes before the scan, either as a liquid that you need to consume, or as a liquid that is injected into your veins. Many patients worry about side effects from the contrast agent – however, complications are rare and can be taken care of easily. Some patients may experience loose bowel movements for 24 hours post the scan, but this will pass soon.
To keep in mind: Notify your doctor if you’re sensitive or allergic to certain medications, if you’re taking any medication for diabetes, if you’re suffering from kidney problems, or if you’ve faced issues with contrast dye in the past.
3) Why is a serum creatinine report mandatory?
If you’re getting a CT scan with contrast, most imaging centers, including Star Imaging, ask for a serum creatinine report, which measures the amount of creatinine in your blood to check how well your kidneys are filtering toxins. This report is crucial because the contrast material may not suit people with impaired kidney function, since the kidneys may not filter the contrast out of the body.
4) Can you get a CT scan if I have a pacemaker?
Yes, you can! Unlike an MRI machine which has a powerful magnet that can be dangerous for people with medical implants, patients with pacemakers, cardioverter defibrillators, etc. can safely undergo a CT scan. However, wearing other metal items, like jewellery, should still be avoided. While these items may not prove fatal for a CT scan, they will interfere with the overall scan quality and results.
5) What about the radiation from the CT scan?
Many people worry about the radiation from a CT scan, since it uses powerful X-rays. However, the radiation dose from one CT scan is negligible, and further, newer machines minimize radiation dosages, while trained radiologists adjust the dosage for each patient, according to their specific case and age. Moreover, CT scans are only recommended in cases where the benefits greatly outweigh any potential threat, for example, to diagnose and treat life threatening disorders.
However, CT scans may not be recommended for pregnant women or very small children.