CT Scan Basics: Why You Might Need It And What Kind Of Contrast You May Require

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CT scans help doctors capture images of various tissues, organs and body parts. These scans work in a manner similar to an x-ray, but they use a unique scanning tool. There are many things that doctors are able to see and diagnose using CT scans, but many times they need to add a dye to your body to provide some contrast for specific images. Here is a look at the types of things your doctor might be looking for if he's ordering a CT scan, and what type of dye may be used.

What Does a CT Scan Show?

Because a CT scan provides your doctor with a detailed image inside your body, he or she can use it to observe and detect a variety of conditions. A few of the things that your doctor might see on a CT scan include:

  • Heart trouble – CT scans can clearly show arterial problems, including blockages. They can also reveal other potentially serious things such as aneurysm and pulmonary embolism.
  • Cancer – these scans will help doctors to view the growth changes that can occur with a variety of types of cancer. Cancer in the lungs, liver and pancreas are evident in CT scans.
  • Bone and Small Tissue Problems – whether you have a spinal condition, a serious injury or acute trauma, a CT scan may help the doctors to look at the area in greater detail than an x-ray would provide. If there is concern of soft tissue damage or possible spinal injury, it could show.

What Kinds of Dye Options Are There?

The most common dye used in a CT scan process is iodine. There are a few different administration methods, with each having its advantages for certain tests.

IV Administration

An intravenous administration of iodine is often required if the doctor is looking at the condition of your blood vessels or inspecting a vascular organ. For example, if he or she is looking for a problem in your liver, kidneys or heart, an IV injection will deliver this contrast liquid directly into your blood to help clarify the image on the scan.

Oral Suspension

An oral iodine suspension may be prescribed if your doctor is inspecting your intestines or looking for upper digestive issues. It's helpful for inspecting things like the stomach and the esophagus. This is also chosen in most cases when the doctor is inspecting anything abdominal.

Enema Administration

Although the iodine you ingest in an oral suspension will ultimately work its way to the colon through your digestive tract, your body's natural digestive processes will break down the iodine's natural contrasting elements along the way. For a clear picture of your lower intestines or your colon, your doctor will prescribe an enema of iodine.

Enemas are administered in the doctor's office by a nurse. The process introduces iodine directly through your rectum so that it's targeted to the colon. If your doctor is concerned about colon cancer or a lower intestinal condition, he or she may request this.

CT scans are a helpful tool for many otherwise hidden internal conditions. If your doctor is asking that you have one, ask about the type of iodine you might need before the procedure.

Talk to a group like Kinston Medical Specialists PA to learn more about CT scan procedures.