Definition of Abdominal CT scan:
An abdominal CT scan is an imaging method that uses x-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the belly area. CT stands for computed tomography.
See also: CT scan
How the test is performed:
You will be asked to lie on a narrow table that slides into the center of the CT scanner. Usually, you will lie on your back with your arms raised above the head.
The health care provider may inject a dye into one of your veins. This helps certain diseases and organs show up better on the images.
Once inside the scanner, the machine's x-ray beam rotates around you. Small detectors inside the scanner measure the amount of x-rays that make it through the abdomen. A computer takes this information and creates several individual images, called slices.
You must be still during the exam, because movement causes blurred images. You may be told to hold your breath for short periods of time.
The actual scan time only takes a few minutes, although the entire procedure usually takes much longer.
How to prepare for the test:
Certain exams require a special dye, called contrast, to be delivered into the body before the test starts. Contrast can highlight specific areas inside the body, which creates a clearer image.
Contrast can be given through a vein (IV) in your hand or forearm. If contrast is used, you may also be asked not to eat or drink anything for 4-6 hours before the test.
Before receiving the contrast, tell your health care provider if you take the diabetes medication metformin (Glucophage) because you may need to take extra precautions.
Some people have allergies to IV contrast and may need to take medications before their test in order to safely receive this substance.
If you weigh more than 300 pounds, have your doctor contact the scanner operator before the exam. CT scanners have a weight limit. Too much weight can cause damage to the scanner's working parts.
Since x-rays have difficulty passing through metal, you will be asked to remove jewelry and wear a hospital gown during the study.
How the test will feel:
Some people may have discomfort from lying on the hard table.
Contrast given through a vein (IV) may cause a slight burning sensation, a metallic taste in the mouth, and a warm flushing of the body. These sensations are normal and usually go away within a few seconds.
Why the test is performed:
An abdominal CT rapidly creates detailed pictures of the structures inside the belly area (abdomen). The test may be used to:
- Study blood vessels
- Identify masses and tumors, including cancer
- Look for infections, kidney stones, or appendicitis