Guide to your scan

This information tells you about having a CT scan with us (following referral by your doctor) and aims to answer any questions you might have.

Please read this leaflet carefully and if there are any questions or concerns then contact us on 01923 844915 between the hours of 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

What is a CT scan?

CT (X-ray Computed Tomography) is a scanning technique which uses X-rays and a computer to create a series of cross-sectional images of structures inside the body, including the internal organs, blood vessels and bone.

The images may be useful in diagnosing illness, guiding further tests or treatments, and monitoring existing conditions.

The CT scanner is a large, quiet machine with a ring-like structure, about 60cm (2’) deep in the centre. You will need to be able to lie on your back on the scanning couch, which will move into the ring.

What are the risks of having a CT?

The scan involves exposure to radiation in the form of X-rays. With our modern CT scanner the radiation dose given is relatively small and there are strict dose guidelines which we adhere to. We ensure that the radiation dose you receive is both appropriate to address the clinical question being asked, and is as low as is achievable.

The doctor who has referred you to us has judged that the risk of the radiation dose is outweighed by the potential benefits of the scan.

Things we need to know before your scan

  • You are pregnant, or think that you are
  • You have a power port device
  • You have kidney problems
  • You are allergic to iodine or have experienced a previous reaction
  • You weigh over 225 kg or 35 stones
  • You have any other needs regarding disabilities or mobility
  • You need hospital transport
  • You need an interpreter
  • You have any other information or communication needs
  • You are claustrophobic
  • You require a chaperone

Preparing for your scan

You will be sent specific instructions in your appointment letter. Please read these instructions carefully and follow them. Try to keep well-hydrated with water.

We are unable to give sedatives or painkillers. If you do need something to calm your nerves or reduce pain, please speak to your doctor in advance and follow their advice closely. If you have taken a sedative, you must bring someone with you to your appointment.

On the day

Please bring a dressing gown or warm, loose, metal-free clothing.

You can take all your usual medicines unless otherwise instructed.

Feel free to bring a friend or helper with you but they will have to wait in the waiting room during the scan.

Please report to the reception area at Paul Strickland Scanner Centre.

For some examinations it may be necessary for you to drink some fluid, either 30 minutes or one hour prior to the scan. This will either be water or a white liquid called barium (used to highlight your bowel). The staff will bring this to you and explain how and when to drink it.

You may also need an injection of contrast (an X-ray dye). If this is necessary you will be asked to fill out a checklist asking you about some of your medical history to decide if we are able to administer this.

If you are unable to attend, please telephone us at the earliest opportunity. Every attempt is made to scan patients on time, although delays may occur due to unforeseen circumstances.

The centre opens at 7.30am. If you have any queries before 9am please phone 01923 844360.

How long will you be in the department?

This will depend on what type of scan you are having but please expect to be with us for up to two hours. This includes preparation, explanation, scan and post-scan procedures.

About the procedure

  • You will be taken into the scanner room where the radiographer will explain the CT examination to you and what to expect. Please ask them any questions that you may have about the scan.
  • Head/neck: Your head will be positioned in a head rest. You will be moved head first into the scanner.
  • Chest, abdomen (tummy) and pelvis (hip area): Your arms will be positioned above your head. You will be moved head first into the scanner and be asked to follow some breathing instructions during the scan.
  • Arm: You will lie with your affected limb immobilised with small pads to help you stay in the correct position during the scan. You will be moved head first into the scanner.
  • Leg: You will lie with your affected limb immobilised with small pads to help you stay in the correct position during the scan. You will be moved feet first into the scanner.
  • The Radiographer will operate the scanner from the adjacent room. They can see and hear you at all times via a window and an intercom. The scanner is not noisy and the procedure should not be painful.
  • Procedures can take between 15-30 minutes, but you may have several short scans. When each scan starts you will not be in the scanner ring itself for any longer than a few seconds.

Will you need an injection?

Many of the examinations we do also require an injection of contrast medium (X-ray dye). This contains iodine and is not radioactive. It helps the radiologist (the specialist doctor who looks at your scans) to tell the difference between blood vessels and other structures.

Renal and diabetic patients can have their kidneys stressed by the contrast/dye. This can rarely cause problems with how well the kidneys work. In order for this injection to be administered safely, it is necessary that we have a recent blood test result showing your kidney function.

If you have ever had any problems with your kidneys, you will need to have this blood test within one week prior to your CT scan. For all other patients, a blood test result within three months prior to your scan will be adequate.

In the case that you have not had a blood test for your kidney function within the time frames stated above, please contact your referring doctor or their secretary to arrange for this to be done.

Please contact us on 01923 844915 once you have had your blood test done, so that we can obtain the results prior to your scan date.

If these results are not available on the day of your scan, it may result in us having to delay/postpone your appointment.

If an injection is necessary then the radiographer will insert a cannula - a small tube - into a vein in your arm through which the dye is administered.

If you have a power port or PICC line for chemotherapy, we may be able to use this instead of a cannula. However, the staff will need to see evidence of the ID card for the port to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for us to use.

When the injection starts you may experience a hot flush and metallic taste in the mouth and a false sensation that you are about to wet yourself. This is normal and will pass off very quickly.

Contrast medium/X-ray dye: There is a small risk that you could have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used. Before we proceed we ask you a number of safety questions in order to identify whether you are at risk, to minimise the chance of this occurring. Some patients can experience a reaction, but this is very rare. If a reaction occurs it is often an itchy rash which should settle down by itself.

Radiographers and doctors are trained to recognise these reactions and treat them. If you are allergic to iodine or have had a previous reaction, please inform us.

Rarely during an injection, the dye can leak outside of the vein causing temporary swelling and discomfort in the arm. This is unlikely to happen but if it does we will give you further instructions and advice.

After the scan

You shouldn’t experience any after-effects from a CT scan and can usually go home soon afterwards. You can eat and drink as normal; however following a contrast injection it is advisable to increase the amount of fluids you drink for the rest of the day.

If you have had an injection, the cannula will be removed and you will be asked to remain in the hospital for up to 20 minutes before leaving to ensure that there is no delayed reaction to the X-ray dye. The dye is normally completely harmless and will pass out of your body in your urine.

If you are breastfeeding you should wait 24 hours after a contrast injection before you breastfeed again. Please express and discard the milk during this time period.

Getting your results

Your scan will be reported by a radiologist and the report will be sent back to the doctor who referred you, in time for your next outpatient appointment. You will not be told the results of your scan at the time of your appointment.

If you do not have another outpatient appointment arranged and you do not hear anything about the results within three weeks, we suggest you telephone the referring doctor’s secretary for advice.

Your feedback

We work hard to provide you with the best possible experience, combining high-quality patient service with clinical excellence and world-class technology.

We welcome any feedback which may help improve our service.

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