What’s a CT Scan?

October 23, 2018

A CT scan, also called a CAT scan, is a specific type of scan that creates three-dimensional images of certain parts of the body by using X-rays. Doctors like using CT scans to get detailed images of the brain, the abdomen, soft tissues, blood vessels and other parts. It’s also used for people who have internal injuries because it receives accurate, clear data that a radiologist can interpret. The CT scan can even pick up details on bone structures like feet and hands.

General Concerns when Having a CT Scan

Getting a general CT scan done is generally not frightening. You will have to take off most of your clothes and wear a hospital gown. Your doctor may ask that you not eat for a time before the procedure. CT scans use radiation, which can carry a risk for cancer. If you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t receive a CT scan. If you have a fear of little spaces (claustrophobia), tell your doctor beforehand.
Because the CT scan takes images from many different angles and compiles them together, you can expect the machine to move all around you. You will simply lie down on a narrow table while the machine moves and takes the images. You will probably hear whirring and clicking sounds while this happens.  Before the scan, your doctor might ask you to ingest “contrast material” through a vein so certain body parts, like blood vessels, can appear clearly on the images. This material can cause an allergic reaction, but most of these are mild. At other times, your doctor will ask you to drink the contrast material if the CT scan is examining your esophagus or stomach. The drink might not taste good, but you should try to finish it so the CT scan can be as effective as possible.

Dental CT Scans

Dental CT scans, on the other hand, are a bit different. Generally, with dental scanners, you can sit or stand and allow the machine to move around your head. The dental CT scans are used for complicated procedures like dental implants. For most minor procedures, you’d undergo the general oral X-ray that happens annually. The CT scan is needed to see the width and density of the jawbone, details that a single X-ray might not be able to provide. It also functions to locate where important nerves are. Overall, dental CT scans are a bit less invasive, but serve the same scanning function for your mouth.

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