CT Scan of the Abdomen
A CT scan is a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body. In this case, images of the abdomen are taken.
CT Scan at Kidneys
Reasons for Test
A CT scan is done to study the organs and tissue in the abdomen and to look for signs of:
- Other diseases
Your doctor may recommend an abdominal CT if you have the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Bowel changes
- Blood in the urine or stool
- Urinary difficulties
- Jaundice (yellow skin)
- Weight loss
- Unexplained fever
- Abdominal injury
- Fluid build-up in the abdomen
Sometimes a chemical (called contrast) is used to help improve the pictures. Complications with contrast are rare. If you are planning to have a CT scan with contrast, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Allergic reaction
- Kidney failure
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the test.
A CT scan may not be advised if you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor.
What to Expect
Prior to Test
Your doctor may instruct you to:
- Avoid eating or drinking anything for four hours before the test if contrast will be used.
- Remove any metal objects (eg, jewelry, hearing aids, dentures).
Description of the Test
In some cases, contrast is needed. It helps make certain organs and tissue more visible on the images. It is sometimes given by mouth in a drink. Other times, it will be injected into a vein.
You will be positioned on a special moving table. The table will advance slowly through the CT scanner. You will need to be still during the entire test. As the scanner takes pictures, you will hear humming and clicking. To get a clear picture, the technician will ask you to hold your breath at certain points. You will be able to talk to the technician via an intercom.
If you had contrast, you may be told to drink extra fluid. This will flush the contrast from your body.
How Long Will It Take?
About 10-60 minutes
Will It Hurt?
You may feel flushed if you received contrast. You may notice a salty or metallic taste in your mouth. You may also feel nauseous.
The CT images will be sent to a radiologist who will analyze them. Your doctor will receive the results and discuss them with you.
Call Your Doctor
If you are given contrast, call your doctor if any of the following occurs after the test:
- Swollen, itchy eyes
- Tightness of throat
- Difficulty breathing
American Cancer Society
Radiological Society of North America
Canadian Association of Radiologists
Canadian Radiation Protection Association
CT-scan. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ct-scan/FL00065. Accessed October 15, 2007.
Rydberg, J, Buckwalter KA, Caldemeyer KS, et al. Multisection CT: scanning techniques and clinical applications. Radiographics. 2000; 20:1787.
Zaret BL. Yale University School of Medicine Patient's Guide to Medical Tests. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin; 1997.
Last reviewed September 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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