Meet Michael, Computed Tomography (CT) patient

When you're a 9-year-old like Michael, a CT may be "cool and fun", but to parents the unknown can be cold and frightening. Adopted from Russia, Michael contracted Polio from a vaccine he received. During a routine check up his doctor noticed he had not grown and a CT of his skull base was ordered. Through the help of growth hormones, Michael continues to be an incredible boy enthusiastic about everything in life.

Computed Tomography (CT), also known as computerized tomography or computed axial tomography (CAT), is an advanced X-ray technology that produces a sequence of detailed cross-sectional images of the interior of the head, spine, chest, abdomen or other areas of the body. The complex images are produced by rotating a focused X-ray beam around the patient and taking these X-ray images from numerous angles, guided by a computer. CT examinations produce detailed organ studies by capturing multiple individual image "slices".

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If you are having a CT of the abdomen or pelvis, please arrive 1 hour prior to your exam to drink the oral contrast. In addition, do not eat or drink for 4 hours prior to the exam. You may have small amounts of water, if needed, to take medications only.

If you are having any other type of CT exam, please arrive 30 minutes early at hospital locations, and 10 minutes early at outpatient centers. Please do not eat for one hour prior to your exam.

For your CT examination you will be asked to lie on a table that rides on a track through the doughnut-shaped scanner. As the procedure begins, you will hear humming, buzzing or clicking sounds from the CT machine. The table will move in short steps through the scanner as the CT tube rotates around you. At each step, the scanner completes a separate view. The information is processed by the computer and displayed as images on a video screen to the technologist.

You should remain as still as possible to produce the clearest images. Depending upon the procedure being performed, you may be asked to hold your breath for up to 30 seconds. Most exams require 15 to 45 minutes to complete.

If you are given contrast medium intravenously, you may notice a metallic taste in your mouth and a warm sensation throughout your body. These sensations are harmless and subside within a few moments. Oral contrast medium may cause slight changes in bowel movements, which will soon return to normal.

Some patients may have an allergic reaction to the contrast medium, which is iodine-based. Patients who are allergic to iodine may experience itching, sneezing or other allergic symptoms in response. If you are allergic to iodine but must be given contrast medium to produce the proper test results, your physician may choose to pre-medicate you with steroids or other drugs. Anyone experiencing such a reaction will be treated before being released to go home. In rare cases, the contrast medium can trigger anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction in which the tissues of the airway become swollen enough to restrict breathing. In such cases, emergency treatment is immediately given. Please let us know if you know or think you are allergic to iodine.

Patients who have diabetes or renal disease require special care because the kidneys are involved in filtering iodine from the bloodstream. These patients should consult with their physician about proper scheduling of the CT scan. After your procedure, your physician will receive a copy of your report within 48 hours, and he or she will be the one to give those results to you.