CT scan


What is a CT scan?

A CT scan provides detailed information about the insides of our bodies. It uses X-ray beams which are used when taking a standard chest X-ray. However a CT scan takes many different pictures using many X-ray beams so the detail of information is better. In particular CT scans are good at looking at bones, the lungs, lymph nodes and the bowel. CT scans provide different information to MRI scans, with some parts of the body best looked at with an MRI, and some with a CT scan.


What does the machine look like?

The machine looks like a big white doughnut or polo mint. Patients lie still and the machine moves over them. The machine is ring like in structure and there is no tunnel. Sometimes contrast is needed to highlight certain parts of the body. This is injected into a vein just before images are taken.


How long does it take?

Patients are required to lie flat on their backs for 15-30 minutes and keep still when the images are taken. There are plenty of breaks in between images being taken. There is a radiographer present who controls the machine, they give instructions as the scan is taken.


When will I get the results?

Once the scan is finished it is then looked at by an X-ray doctor called a radiologist. These doctors specialise at looking at scans. They look at the pictures and write a report. This process takes a few days to complete.


Further information

CT scanning at NHS choices



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Written by: Dr T Rider

Editor: Dr J Newman

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