When a medical condition is suspected or already under treatment, it’s not uncommon for patients to feel like they’ve been sent back to school. When one test with a funny name leads to another and another, keeping up with how to prepare and what to expect can be tough. If your doctor has ordered a contrast CT, this particular test with an unusual name is absolutely nothing to fear. In fact, when its potential benefits are considered carefully, computed tomography scans, or CT for short, are actually pretty cool.
CT scans at their heart aren’t all that different from standard X-rays just about everyone has undergone at some point in life. The CT version, however, is designed to create much more detailed images of the inside of the body. This type of test, for example, may be used to help determine if a bone that didn’t look broken on an X-ray does in fact have a fracture. It can also be quite useful in confirming or ruling out a host of conditions including cancer.
When a contrast CT is ordered it is done to help potential areas of concern show up more readily on CT scan images. Here are a few things that patients should know before they go in:
- Eating and drinking may be off limits before the test – Yes, homework may come with a contrast CT. To prepare, patients may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for a set period of time before going in. Doctors will generally define the timeframe, so be sure to ask.
- It’s best to leave jewelry at home or bring someone along to hold personal belongings – When a CT is being performed, glasses, jewelry, dentures and other similar items will need to come off.
- Patients get to take a load off – Before the CT begins, patients will be asked to lie down on the scanning table. At that point, the contrast will typically be administered if it’s an IV form. Patients may taste something funny or feel a little rush of heat, but nothing more than discomfort goes along with this part of the test. IV contracts aren’t the only option. Depending on what the CT is looking for, oral contrasts or rectal contrasts may be used.
- The test itself is pretty simple – While preparing for the CT with the contract can take about 90 minutes, the scan itself make only take minutes or less. Once it begins, the table a patient is on will slide into the scanner and a giant X-ray tube will rotate around taking images. There’s no pain involved, but patients may be asked to hold their breath at some points during the test.
A contrast CT simply provides doctors clearer images of what is going on inside a patient’s body. Although more involved than a typical X-ray, the information provided can be quite valuable for ruling out, diagnosing or treating a condition.