Your CT scan

Key summary points

  • If for any reason you feel that you may find it difficult to tolerate an CT scan, please discuss with one of the LBSM team. There are always other solutions and options we can work through together
  • After your scan, contact the LBSM team to book a follow up appointment with your doctor. Here you will receive and be able to discuss the results of your scan. (the interval between you scan and your appointment will have been discussed at your consultation)
  • The results of your scan automatically get sent to the LBSM team once processed, so no need to request them yourself (unless specifically asked to do so).

About your CT scan

Following your consultation at LBSM, you may have been referred for a computerised tomography (CT) scan.

This guide takes you through the relevant information about what to expect during this process. Please take the time to read it carefully.

After you have had your CT scan, you will have the opportunity to go through the results in detail with the clinical team and work out the next steps together.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries about anything to do with the process of getting your scan.

  1. Why do I need an CT scan?
  2. What is an CT scan?
  3. When CT scans are used
  4. How is a CT scan performed?
  5. Safety of CT scans

1. Why do I need a CT scan?

CT scans can give large amounts of detail into the anatomy of an injury/complaint that you have. From a sports medicine and injury point of view, they give particular detail around the anatomy of bones. They can also be used to grade the severity of your medical issue or to gain extra information.

Often, comparing information from a variety of imaging modalities, sometimes at different time intervals, can be really useful to understand the full context of the medical complaint and its progression. This additional information will help determine the next steps of your treatment plan and make sure you are on the correct rehabilitation path.

2. What is a CT scan? 

A computerised tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body.   

CT scans are sometimes referred to as CAT scans or computed tomography scans. 

They’re carried out in hospital by specially trained operators called radiographers, and can be done while you’re staying in hospital or during a short visit. 

3. When CT scans are used 

CT scans can produce detailed images of many structures inside the body, including the internal organs, blood vessels and bones. 

In the context of a sport medicine clinic, they are often used to look at bones in greater details, for example, identifying fractures.  

CT scans wouldn’t normally be used routinely to check for problems if you don’t have any symptoms (known as screening). This is because the benefits of screening may not outweigh the risks. 

4. How is a CT scan performed? 

Preparing for a CT scan 

If you need to do anything to prepare for your CT scan, it will be clearly discussed with you at your LBSM clinical appointment. 

You should also let the LBSM team and/or hospital know if you’re pregnant. CT scans aren’t usually recommended for pregnant women unless it’s an emergency, as there’s a small chance the X-rays could harm your baby. 

It’s a good idea to wear loose, comfortable clothes as you may be able to wear these during the scan. 

Try to avoid wearing jewellery and clothes containing metal (such as zips), as these will need to be removed. 

Before having a CT scan 

Before having the scan, you may be given a special dye called a contrast to help improve the quality of the images.  

Your LBSM doctor will make it very clear if you need a CT scan with contrast dye, otherwise, please assume your CT scan is without contrast. 

This may be swallowed in the form of a drink, passed into your bottom (enema), or injected into a blood vessel. 

Tell the radiographer if you feel anxious or claustrophobic about having the scan. 

They can give you advice to help you feel calm and can arrange for you to have a sedative (medication to help you relax) if necessary. 

Before the scan starts, you may be asked to remove your clothing and put on a gown. 

You’ll also be asked to remove anything metal, such as jewellery, as metal interferes with the scanning equipment. 

What happens during a CT scan 

During the scan, you’ll usually lie on your back on a flat bed that passes into the CT scanner. 

The scanner consists of a ring that rotates around a small section of your body as you pass through it. 

Unlike an MRI scan, the scanner doesn’t surround your whole body at once, so you shouldn’t feel claustrophobic. 

ct scan 2 Your CT scan

The radiographer will operate the scanner from the next room. While the scan is taking place, you’ll be able to hear and speak to them through an intercom.

While each scan is taken, you’ll need to lie very still and breathe normally. This ensures that the scan images aren’t blurred.

You may be asked to breathe in, breathe out, or hold your breath at certain points.

The scan will usually take around 10 to 20 minutes.

What happens afterwards 

You shouldn’t experience any after-effects from a CT scan and can usually go home soon afterwards. You can eat and drink, go to work and drive as normal. 

If a contrast was used, you may be advised to wait in the hospital for up to an hour to make sure you don’t have a reaction to it. 

The contrast is normally completely harmless and will pass out of your body in your urine. 

Your CT scan now needs to be studied by a radiologist (a doctor trained in interpreting scans and X-rays) and possibly discussed with other specialists. This happens with 1-2 days but can occur on the same day if urgent.  

The radiologist will send a report to the LBSM doctor who arranged the scan, who will discuss the results with you and go through the images with you in detail. 

5. Safety of CT scans 

CT scans are quick, painless and generally safe. But there’s a small risk you could have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used and you’ll be exposed to X-ray radiation. 

The amount of radiation you’re exposed to during a CT scan varies, depending on how much of your body is scanned. 

CT scanners are designed to make sure you’re not exposed to unnecessarily high levels. 

Generally, the amount of radiation you’re exposed to during each scan is equivalent to between a few months and a few years of exposure to natural radiation from the environment. 

It’s thought exposure to radiation during CT scans could slightly increase your chances of developing cancer many years later, although this risk is thought to be very small (less than 1 in 2,000). 

For more information, read GOV.UK: patient dose information

The benefits and risks of having a CT scan will always be weighed up before it’s recommended. 

Talk to your doctor or radiographer about the potential risks beforehand if you have any concerns. 

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries about the process of getting your scan, or the scan itself. Look forward to seeing you at your next appointment.  

The information in this article has been cited from www.nhs.uk to align with best clinical practice standards.

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