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What can I expect during a computerized tomography (CT) scan?

A staff member will escort you to a computerized tomography (CT) suite where you will lie down on the CT table. The CT table will move in and out of a large hole in the doughnut-shaped CT scanner. While the table is moving, an x-ray is produced to create the CT images. If for your particular CT scan you are required to hold your breath, we will give you breathing instructions asking you to take in a deep breath and hold it. After some initial imaging, if an intravenous (IV) contrast material injection is necessary for your scan, a technologist will enter the room and begin your IV contrast material injection.

During a computed tomography (CT) scan, the person lies very still on a table. The table slowly passes through the center of a large x-ray machine. The person might hear whirring sounds during the procedure. People may be asked to hold their breath at times, to prevent blurring of the pictures.

Often, a contrast agent, or "dye," may be given by mouth, injected into a vein, given by enema, or given in all three ways before the CT scan is done. The contrast dye can highlight specific areas inside the body, resulting in a clearer picture.

Computed tomography scans do not cause any pain. However, lying in one position during the procedure may be slightly uncomfortable. The length of the procedure depends on the size of the area being x-rayed; CT scans take from 15 minutes to 1 hour to complete. For most people, the CT scan is performed on an outpatient basis at a hospital or a doctor's office, without an overnight hospital stay.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

On the day of your computerized tomography (CT) scan, also called computed tomography or CAT scan, you can expect to go to an office or hospital and meet your radiographer (also known as radiologic technologist). Your radiographer is the person who does your scan.

Usually, you can wear your own clothes, but sometimes you might need to wear a hospital gown. But you do have to remove anything with metal in it because metal can make the CT pictures blurry. This may include earrings, zippers, hairclips, necklaces, rings, watches and belts, depending on where the CT scan is looking.

If you need contrast, you will have it usually right before the scan. The radiographer goes to the room next door to do the scan. They’ll keep talking to you on a speaker and look through a big window, checking that you’re okay.

Once it’s all over, you usually go home, and the radiologist will send a report to your doctor, who will tell you the results as soon as possible. If you’ve had anesthesia, you will have to stay in the hospital for a few hours until you feel awake again.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.