CT Scan | Computerized Tomography

Need a CT scan or other special testing to help with a diagnosis? MaineHealth offers the most advanced imaging services and the expertise of board-certified radiologists.

What is a CT scan?

A computerized tomography scan uses a special X-ray machine to create multiple pictures of an affected area. The X-rays are taken from different angles. A computerized tomography scan is often is called a CT scan or a CAT scan.

CT scans are good at showing pictures of bone, soft tissue and blood vessels. They are more detailed than regular X-rays.

CT scans have many uses. They often are used to make images of the spine and skull. They are also used to see the inner ear and sinuses. Some of the conditions that a CT scan may be used for include:

  • Broken bones
  • Cancer
  • Blood clots
  • Heart disease
  • Bleeding inside your body
  • Brain injury
  • Brain tumors
  • Aneurysms that leak, rupture or break open
  • Spine problems
  • Herniated disc

During a CT scan

During a CT scan, the patient lies still on a table. The table slides through an X-ray machine. The patient is asked not to move during the test. The patient does not feel a thing.

Sometimes, the patient is injected with a dye through an IV line ahead of time; sometimes patients also drink some flavored contrast dye prior to the scan. The dye makes parts of the body show up better in the X-ray pictures.

CT risks

There is a small risk from X-ray radiation.  However, in general, the importance of making a diagnosis and determining appropriate treatment by getting a CT scan outweighs the risk.

  • People may have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye.  Discuss any allergies with your provider.
  • Contrast dye can harm the kidneys, especially in people who have diabetes or kidney problems to begin with.

Be sure to talk to your provider about the pros and cons of a CT scan.  In particular be sure you discuss your allergies, history of kidney problems, any possibility of pregnancy, and any other concerns with your doctor.

After a CT scan

A radiologist will review the CT scan results on a computer screen.

The findings will be sent to your doctor to discuss with you.