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CT Scan of the Abdomen

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Reasons for Test | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor

Definition

A CT scan is a type of x-ray. It 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

kidney CT scan

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Reasons for Test

A CT scan is done to study the organs and tissue in your abdomen. Your doctor will look for signs of:

  • Injury
  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Other diseases

Your doctor may recommend an abdominal CT scan if you have the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bowel changes
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Evidence of intestinal blockage.
  • Urinary difficulties
  • Jaundice (yellow skin)
  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained fever
  • Abdominal injury
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen

Possible Complications

Sometimes a chemical called contrast is used to help improve the pictures. Complications with contrast are rare but some can have an allergic reaction or kidney problems .

A CT scan does use radiation. You and your doctor will weigh the harms and benefits of this test. A CT scan may not be advised if you are pregnant.

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

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Your doctor may tell you to:

  • Avoid eating or drinking anything for four hours before the test if contrast will be used.
  • Remove any metal objects, such as jewelry, hearing aids, or dentures..

Description of the Test

Sometimes contrast is necessary. It helps make certain organs and tissue easier to see in pictures. It is often given by mouth in a drink. Other times, it will be injected into a vein. Occasionally it is delivered by an enema.

You will be positioned on a special moving table. The table will move slowly through the CT scanner. You will need to stay still during the entire test. As the scanner takes pictures, you will hear humming and clicking. The technician will ask you to hold your breath at certain points. This will help get a clear picture. You will be able to talk to the technician with 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 30 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 nauseated.

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 are given 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 an emergency, call for medical help right away.

 

RESOURCES:

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

References:

  • CT—Abdomen and Pelvis. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=abdominct. Updated May 15, 2012. Accessed March 28, 2013.
  • CT scan. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ct-scan/MY00309. Updated March 23, 2012. Accessed October 15, 2007.
  • Positron Emission Tomography - Computed Tomograpy (PET/CT). Radiology Info.org website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=PET. Updated April 24, 2012. Accessed March 28, 2013.
  • Rydberg J, Buckwalter KA, et al. Multisection CT: scanning techniques and clinical applications. Radiographics . 2000; 20:1787.

Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

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