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CT (Computed Tomography)

CT stands for Computed Tomography. A CT is a rapid, painless diagnostic procedure that uses x-rays (ionizing radiation) and computers to obtain detailed cross-sectional images of the tissues and organs of the body. A CT scan allows the radiologist to see the location, nature, and extent of many different diseases or abnormalities inside your body.

What are the risks of a CT scan?

CT uses multiple low dose x-rays which are taken in sequence by a rotating x-ray tube. The technologist will take special care to ensure maximum radiation safety. Some CT scans require an iodine contrast agent to better visualize the organs of the body. Be sure to inform the technologist and your doctor if you are allergic to iodine. The risk of a serious reaction to iodine is rare; however, special precautions will be taken if there is a known allergy to iodine. Please inform the technologist and your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or diabetic.

What are the benefits of a CT scan?

CT scans are fast, painless, and non-invasive. They offer a detailed look at the organs of your body which will assist your physician in making a diagnosis. The exam will be read by a Board Certified Radiologist who will provide the results to your physician.

What will my CT experience be like?

You will be asked to lie still on a table for approximately 5-10 minutes and follow any breathing instructions that are appropriate for your exam. The table top will move you through a gantry (shaped like a big doughnut) which houses the x-ray tube and a set of detectors. Images are acquired by detectors that pick up the x-rays that pass through your body. The computer takes this information and puts together a 3-D image of your body. You will be alone in the room as the scan is being performed, but the technologist will be able to see and hear you at all times. Depending on the type of exam, you may be asked to drink a contrast agent or to receive intravenous (IV) contrast. Oral contrast agents are only used for abdominal and pelvic CT exams to aid in the visualization of the stomach and intestines. If your exam requires IV contrast, a small catheter will be placed in a vein in your arm. During the administration of contrast, you may experience a warm sensation throughout your body and/or a metallic taste in your mouth. Not everyone experiences these feelings and any sensation you experience will go away within a few minutes of the injection.

What are the uses and advantages of a CT scan?

CT provides much more detailed information than plain x-rays because they examine the body slice by slice, from all angles, using 3-D imaging. Doctors use CT scans to diagnose and treat a wide variety of problems including trauma, pulmonary embolus, kidney stones, back pain, boney abnormalities, and cancer. CT is also used as a screening tool to detect calcium plaque in the coronary arteries or polyps in the colon.

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring (Heart Scan)

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that 500,000 Americans die from coronary artery disease (heart attack) yearly. Most have no warning prior to their death. Early detection of calcified atherosclerotic plaque can prompt preventative action to minimize risk of heart attack or direct people to seek medical evaluation for further testing. Coronary atherosclerosis can be slowed, stopped and possibly reversed before artery blockage results in heart muscle damage or death.

The Heart Scan is non-invasive and does not require special preparation or dietary restrictions. It takes just 15 minutes to complete and detects and quantifies calcified atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries. A score is computed based on the amount of calcification detected. This screening is recommended for men 45 years and older and women 55 years and older with no risk factors. If a risk factor such as family history of heart disease, high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol is involved, the recommended ages start ten years earlier. Studies show that this screening is most useful in predicting heart problems in intermediate risk patients--those without symptoms but with at least one traditional risk factor.

Patients experiencing symptoms, pain or any related medical issues should see their physician and should NOT come in for a screening examination. These screenings are best suited for people who are asymptomatic but are of screening age or have a family history that puts them at a high risk for related medical problems.