What to expect if your provider referred you for a CT Scan
A lot of people have a lot of questions before they go in for their
exam. Keep reading to know what to expect. The first thing you should
know is that a CT Scan IS NOT AN MRI. You can have metal on your body,
but anything that is removable in the area being scanned should be
removed. If you are unsure if you even need the test
a lot of people have questions about the CT Contrast, or "Dye." The dye
is a solution that the technologist will inject to highlight blood
vessels, and anything that has blood flowing through it. It's extremely
important and helps to diagnose a ton of problems. These days, not too
many people have allergic
to the dye as they did in the past. Be sure you tell your doctor if you have had any type
of serious or minor reaction to this dye, as you may need pre-medication
before the injection. Also tell your doctor and the technologist
performing the exam if you have a medical history (yourself, not your
family) of a brain bleed, diabetes, kidney failure, sickle cell anemia
(if you have the disease, not a carrier), multiple myeloma (bone
cancer), pheochromocytoma (an adrenal gland disorder), or thyroid
Normal IV Dye reactions are:
- Warmth (all over, you'll probably feel very weird)
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Joint or muscle pain
- Numbness, tingling sensation
- Ringing in your ears
- A taste (described as sucking on a penny or swallowing ink)
- A urinating sensation (it feels very warm down there, so you feel as though you wet yourself)
Seek emergency treatment if you have the following symptoms within 24 hours of contrast injection:
- Urinary symptoms (not going, or going less)
- Severe headache with nausea and vomiting lasting several days
- Syncope (light-headedness, passing out)
- Difficulty breathing
- A developing rash or hives
- Swelling anywhere
you are a diabetic, make sure that you let the technologist know.
Certain diabetes medication, such as metformin, glucophage, and more,
can interfere with the dye and cause kidney failure.
If you are over a certain age a creatinine test must be
drawn. It's a kidney function test, and the results must be retrieved
before the administration of the contrast dye. Other reasons for the creatinine test
to be drawn are because of diabetes and a history of kidney problems.
Some places can draw up the labs and have the results in 5 minutes.
Others need to run it through their lab systems and it can take about an
hour. If you know you are going to have the contrast, be sure to get
the labs drawn at the doctors office where the procedure was scheduled
to save yourself the time.
Another test that will be drawn is
a pregnancy test if you are a female who is of age to have a child.
Some places won't take your word for it that you are not pregnant. Just
take the test, it takes 5 minutes, and is relatively easy.
Another reason for a wait could be because you had to drink barium.
If you are having a CT scan
of your abdomen and pelvis, more than likely you were asked to drink
barium. It's gross, and everybody hates it. It's a necessary evil for
the test, though. Barium acts in a way similar to the dye, except it's
for the digestive system
When you drink the barium, it coats your digestive system
to highlight it, and will show off any abnormalities as well as
highlight areas that could not be seen without it, such as your
appendix. Normally, you have to wait an hour to an hour and a half after
drinking it down before you can have your test.
Here's a tip
on how to save yourself some time. Before you go to the facility where
you are having your test done, ask either your doctor's office or the
facility doing the scan for a bottle of the barium. Ask them "How long
before my exam should I drink this?" and they will tell you. That way,
you can drink it at home and not have to wait as long.
Yes. If you are having a CT of the abdomen
and pelvis, more than likely you will receive an enema of contrast that
you have to hold in during the exam. It's similar to the barium, but not
as thick, and you don't have to hold very much. You can refuse it, but
not recommended as you will have a suboptimal exam, and something could
be overlooked. There is a way around it though!
As stated before, ask the facility for a bottle of barium to take home.
Tell them that you don't want them enema and you don't want a
suboptimal exam, so when should you drink this to avoid the enema? Most
places would be happy to do this, as they prefer not to actually give
the enema either. Some facilities require 3 bottles, but normally the
magic number is 2.
OK, so you've had the exam, now what?
done! Be sure to drink a ton of water so you
don't dehydrate yourself after the dye is injected. Normally it takes
about 2-3 days for your physician to get the results. The facility doing
the exam can't give you the results but they can make copies via a CD
or films to give to your doctor.