Computed Tomography Patient Prep

CT stands for Computed Tomography (sometimes referred to as a “CAT” scan), which is a fast, painless diagnostic tool doctors can use to see inside the body. Physicians apply the information they get from a CT scan to rule out or confirm the presence of certain abnormalities or diseases.

Low Dose CTCT exams are quick and comfortable. During the study, you will be asked to lie still on a table as it gently moves you through a scanner. You may be given a contrast agent through an injection. In most cases you will be asked several questions prior to your CT scan. Be sure to inform your physician or technologist if you have any allergies or believe you are pregnant.

Why is CT important?

Computed Tomography has revolutionized diagnostic medicine. This advanced x-ray technique allows your doctor and radiologist to view bones, organs, blood vessels and even your heart, in extraordinarily fine detail from many angles. This information helps doctors diagnose a wide variety of conditions earlier and faster than ever before.

Is CT like an x-ray?

Yes. CT uses x-rays in conjunction with advanced computer technology to generate very accurate and detailed images of your internal organs and structures. Your technologist will step into a control room to conduct the actual exam. You may notice a mechanical noise coming from the scanner. This is just the x-ray tube being activated and rotating around your body.

Will the CT scan hurt?

No. CT is a painless, non-invasive test. Your exam might require that a contrast agent be given intravenously that will make your blood vessels and tissues more visible. You will then be asked to lie perfectly still once the technologist has positioned you appropriately on the table. You may also be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds during the exam. Any movement might require the exam to be repeated.

How long will my CT exam take?

The length of your CT exam depends on which particular study, or studies, your doctor has ordered. Most exams are quick and painless, lasting just a few minutes. Depending on the type of exam you may be having, you will be asked to arrive at Washington Radiology 15 or 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam time.

Do I have to do anything special to prepare for my CT scan?

How you prepare for your CT scan depends on what part of the body is being examined and the protocols used at Washington Radiology. In some cases the staff may ask you to change into a gown for the exam. And you may be asked not to eat or drink anything before your exam. Many CT scans require a contrast agent. Written instructions and the preparation are available at most Washington Radiology offices.

Can I get a CT scan if I have allergies to foods and other products?

If your exam requires IV contrast, WRA will ask you to follow a two-drug pretreatment regimen to help reduce the likelihood of an allergic reaction and ensure the best possible examination. This pretreatment regimen is necessary for your care if you have ever had an allergic reaction to ANY substance (medication or food) that involved moderate-to-severe allergic-like reactions such as marked facial or body swelling, severe difficulty breathing, laryngeal edema, body hives/diffuse rash, profound drop in blood pressure, cardiopulmonary arrest or other allergic-like reactions requiring hospitalization, ER treatment, or the need to carry an Epi pen. Written preparation instructions are available at most Washington Radiology offices or on our website under Patient Education and Preparing For Your Exam.

What is a contrast agent?

A contrast agent (sometimes called a “dye”) is a liquid substance that makes certain tissues stand out more clearly against their surroundings, enabling the finest details to show up on the x-ray, improving diagnostic accuracy. If a contrast material is used, it will be injected into a vein, usually in your arm. The contrast agent will leave your body naturally within a few hours. If your exam does require a contrast agent, be sure to tell the technologist if you have any allergies.

Who performs a CT?

A radiologist certified by the American Board of Radiology oversees the CT study. The radiologist will be assisted by a radiologic technologist and/or a registered nurse. The technologist has extensive training in the use of CT and he/she will operate the CT scanner. Together, your CT team will help ensure that your CT scan produces the best quality images of your body and that you are comfortable throughout the procedure.

How and when will I know the results of my CT scan?

A board-certified radiologist at Washington Radiology will interpret your scan typically on the same day of your test. He/she will dictate his/her findings and the report will be transcribed and sent to your physician who requested the CT scan. If necessary or requested, the radiologist will call your physician right away.Your physician will share the exam results with you.

Are there any people who shouldn’t get CT scans?

If you are pregnant, think you might be pregnant, have allergies, or are diabetic, you should inform your doctor and CT technologist prior to your exam. Let them know if you have had any contrast material in the past and if you had any reaction. Bring to your appointment a complete list of any medications you may be taking, including non-prescription medications. It’s very important that you provide your medical history and reason for this examination. Also, tell the technologist if you have had, or are presently being treated for, an infection in any part of your body.

Will I be alone during the CT exam?

Our state-of-the-art CT system is designed to provide a comfortable patient environment. A more open design allows patients to look outside of the machine during the exam, and see and talk to your technologist. Even when the technologist is not in the CT room you will be able to communicate via intercom. The technologist will inform you when an exam is about to start and when it is finished. Typically, family members or friends are not permitted to stay with you in the CT room.

What is the difference between an MRI and a CT scan?

A CT scanner uses x-rays to acquire its images. MRI, on the other hand, uses non-ionizing, radio frequency signals to acquire its images. Both CT and MRI scanners can generate multiple two-dimensional cross-sections or slices of tissue and three-dimensional reconstructions. MRI and CT may be complementary examinations. Your doctor, often in consultation with our radiologists, will determine which test will best assess your medical condition.

WRA CT Center

Suburban Maryland

Chase Tower
4445 Willard Avenue, Suite 200
Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815

64-Slice CT Centers

Washington, DC

University Medical Building
2141 K Street, NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20037

Northern Virginia

Lakeside At Loudoun Tech Center I
21351 Ridgetop Circle, Suite 150
Sterling, Virginia 20166

Scheduling Appointments

Washington Radiology provides imaging services for patients upon referral from a physician. Patients are seen by appointment. However, emergencies do occur and we make every attempt to accommodate these cases. To schedule your CT study at Washington Radiology, please call: (703) 280-9800