Our internal organs are some of the most important parts of our bodies, so it’s crucial to keep them healthy. When something goes wrong, doctors need to be able to see what’s going on inside in order to make a diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan.
One way to do this is with computed tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen. This test uses special x-ray equipment and computers to create detailed pictures of the structures inside the abdomen, including the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and spleen.
This article will discuss what an abdominal CT scan is, how it’s performed, and what to expect afterward.
What is an abdominal CT scan?
An abdominal CT scan is a diagnostic tool that uses X-rays and computer technology to create detailed pictures of the structures inside the abdomen. This includes the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys. The test is also sometimes called a CAT scan or computed tomography scan.
CT scans are painless and take just a few minutes. During the procedure, you lie on a table while an X-ray machine rotates around your body. The X-rays are transmitted to a computer that creates cross-sectional images of your abdomen.
Moreover, an abdominal scan can help doctors to:
- Detect problems with the abdominal organs, such as tumors, cysts, or inflammatory diseases
- Evaluate the spread of cancer to other parts of the body
- Plan surgical procedures
- Guide biopsies and other treatments
Why an abdominal CT scan is performed?
There are reasons why doctors need to perform an abdominal scan on their patients.
Such reasons are:
- To check for the spread of cancer
- To evaluate the abdomen after surgery
- To find the cause of abdominal pain
- To assess organ damage from an injury
- To guide a needle biopsy
What can an abdominal CT scan detect?
An abdominal CT scan can detect problems with the abdominal organs, such as tumors, cysts, or inflammatory diseases. It can also evaluate the spread of cancer to other parts of the body and guide biopsies and other treatments.
What can an abdominal CT scan miss?
A CT scan is a very accurate test, but it is not perfect. It can miss small tumors, especially if they are close to other structures in the abdomen.
How to Prepare for An Abdominal CT Scan?
Your doctor will likely give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your CT scan.
In general, you will be asked to:
- Fast for four to six hours before the test
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Avoid eating high-fiber foods
- Stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
You should also let your doctor know if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant. Scans use X-rays, which can be harmful to a developing fetus.
Once you’ve answered the necessary questions and completed the required paperwork, you’ll be given a gown to change into. You’ll also be asked to remove any jewelry or metal objects that you’re wearing.
The scan itself is relatively quick and painless. You’ll lie on a table while an X-ray machine rotates around your body. The images will be transmitted to a computer for interpretation by a radiologist.
How an Abdominal CT Scan is Performed
An abdominal scan starts with you lying on a table. The table then moves through a donut-shaped machine called a gantry. The gantry contains an X-ray source and a digital detector.
As the X-ray source rotates around your body, it sends out a fan-shaped beam of radiation. The beam passes through your body and is detected by the digital detector. The data collected by the detector is sent to a computer, which creates images of your abdomen.
The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes. You may be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time so that the images are not blurred.
After the scan, you can usually resume your normal activities immediately. You will be able to eat and drink as you normally would.
Results of an Abdominal Scan
A radiologist will interpret the images from your CT scan and send a report to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results with you and explain what they mean.
The images from a CT scan are often very detailed. They can show small lesions that might not be visible on other imaging tests, such as an X-ray or ultrasound.
If the CT scan shows an abnormality, additional testing may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. This might include a biopsy or additional scans with different settings.
Possible Side Effects of an Abdominal CT Scan
When a CT scan is performed using standard doses of radiation, there are no side effects.
However, you might experience some possible side effects, such as:
- Feeling flushed or warm during the scan (this is caused by the contrast dye and is harmless)
- Nausea or vomiting (caused by the contrast dye)
- Diarrhea (caused by the contrast dye)
It’s important to drink plenty of fluids and avoid high-fiber foods for a few days after your CT scan. This will help minimize any side effects from the contrast dye.
If you are pregnant, there is a small risk that the radiation from a CT scan could harm the developing fetus. Your doctor will discuss this risk with you and only recommend a CT scan if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Abdominal CT Scan Risks
There are very few risks associated with abdominal CT scans. This includes:
Allergic reaction to the contrast dye
A small number of people are allergic to the contrast dye used in CT scans. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, itching, and difficulty breathing. These reactions are rare and usually happen within minutes of receiving the contrast dye.
There is a very small risk that the radiation from an abdominal CT scan could harm a developing fetus. This risk is greatest during the first trimester of pregnancy. If you are pregnant or think you might be, tell your doctor so they can decide if a CT scan is right for you.
Slightly increased risk of cancer
There is a very small risk that the radiation from a CT scan could damage DNA and cause cancer. The risk is higher in children than adults, and it increases with the number of CT scans you’ve had.
If you are concerned about the risks associated with an abdominal CT scan, talk to your doctor. They can help you weigh the risks and benefits of the scan and make an informed decision.
How long does an abdominal CT scan take?
A CT scan can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the area being scanned and the amount of detail required.
How much is an abdominal CT scan?
The cost of an abdominal CT scan will depend on several factors, such as the facility, your location, and your insurance. For a more accurate cost, we at RapidCare Emergency Room recommend that you speak to your insurance provider.
Have an Abdominal CT Scan Today!
Although are tons of advantages and disadvantages of abdominal ct scans, the benefits will always outweigh the risks. If you think an abdominal CT scan is right for you, don’t hesitate! We at RapidCare Emergency can help get you scheduled for an appointment today.
Our team of experts and doctors can help answer any questions or concerns you may have about the procedure. Give us a call today! We hope this article helped educate you on abdominal CT scans and what to expect.