What – an CT scanner uses X-rays to look in detail at tissue density. It involves exposing you to a small amount of ionizing radiation. The CT scan procedure is painless but you may need a needle in your hand for delivery of a contrast agent to enhance the images.
Why – an CT scan may be requested for many reasons but is usually performed to assess and look for structural abnormalities or variations inside the tissues of your body.
Preparation – no specific preparation for the CT scan is usually required. The scan itself will involve lying on a table and the relevant part of your body entering a big metal doughnut. The scan usually takes only a 10-15 minutes to perform depending upon the number of image sequences required. You will be required to keep very still throughout in order to get the best images.
Risk – the procedure is painless but CT scanning does involve exposing your body to X-ray radiation and as a result there is a very small risk of DNA damage that could potentially lead to cancer. It is important that this risk is not overstated as it is very small and similar to having a series of plane film X-rays. There is also as ever a very small risk that someone could react seriously to any injection and this includes the contrast agent that may be required. Again this risk is very small.
How long will it take – an CT scan takes usually 10-15 minutes to perform depending upon the number of image sequences required. Remember to turn up in good time and that there could also be a queue!