CT scan is a type of imaging test. It uses X-ray and computer technology to make detailed pictures of the organs and structures inside your chest. These images are more detailed than regular X-rays. They can give more information about injuries or diseases of the chest organs.
In a CT scan, an X-ray beam moves in a circle around your body. It takes many images, called slices, of the lungs and inside the chest. A computer processes these images and displays it on a monitor.
During the test, you may receive a contrast dye. This will make parts of your body show up better in the image.
A CT scan of the chest may be done to check the chest and its organs for:
A CT scan may be done when another type of exam, such as an X-ray or physical exam, is not conclusive.
This test may also be used to guide needles during biopsies of thoracic organs or tumors. A biopsy is when a small piece of tissue is removed so it can be examined in the lab. CT scans can also be done to help remove a sample of fluid from the chest. They are useful in keeping an eye on tumors and other conditions of the chest before and after treatment.
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend a CT scan of the chest.
You may want to ask your healthcare provider about the amount of radiation used during the CT scan. You should discuss the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your past history of radiation exposure. Tell your healthcare provider about previous CT scans and other types of X-rays. Your risks of radiation exposure may be related to the total number of X-ray exams or treatments over a long period of time.
If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your healthcare provider. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects. If you are breastfeeding, let your healthcare provider know. Ask if you should pump and save breastmilk to use after the procedure.
If contrast dye is used, there is a risk you may have an allergic reaction to the dye. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had a reaction to any contrast dye, or if you’ve had any kidney problems.
If you have kidney failure or other kidney problems, tell your healthcare provider. In some cases, the contrast dye can cause kidney failure. This is especially true if the patient has underlying kidney problems or is dehydrated.
If you take the diabetes medicine called metformin with the contrast, you are at risk for developing metabolic acidosis. This is a condition where you have an unsafe change in blood pH. People with kidney disease are more prone to kidney damage after contrast exposure.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical problems. Make sure your healthcare provider knows about all your medical problems before the procedure.
Certain things may make a CT scan of the chest less accurate. These include:
You may have a chest CT scan as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your hospital’s practices.
Generally the chest CT scan follows this process:
The CT scan itself causes no pain. However, having to lie still for the length of the procedure might cause some discomfort or pain, particularly in the case of a recent injury or invasive procedure such as surgery. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
If contrast dye was used during your procedure, you may be watched for a period of time for any side effects or reactions to the contrast dye. These include itching, swelling, rash, or trouble breathing.
Tell your healthcare provider if you notice any pain, redness, or swelling at the IV site after you return home. These could be signs of an infection or other type of reaction.
If you are given contrast by mouth, you may have diarrhea or constipation after the procedure.
Otherwise, you don’t need any special care after a CT scan of the chest. You may go back to your usual diet and activities unless your healthcare provider tells you differently.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: