Definition

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, the images are of the head.

CT Scan of the Head

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Reasons for Test

A CT scan is done to study the skull, brain, jaw, sinuses, and facial bones. The scan will look for signs of injuries, tumors, infections, or other diseases.

Your doctor may recommend a head CT if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Head injury or injury to the face or eyes
  • Dizziness or problems with balance
  • Confusion
  • Behavior or personality change
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Swelling in the face, head, or neck

Possible Complications

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. These may include:

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the test.

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 tissues more visible on the images. 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. If you have a hard time with this, the technician may need to use a device to keep your head still. As the scanner takes pictures, you will hear humming and clicking. You will be able to talk to the technician via an intercom.

After Test

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.

Results

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 receive contrast, call your doctor if any of the following occurs after the test:

  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Swollen, itchy eyes
  • Tightness of throat
  • Difficulty breathing
In case of emergency, call 911