The Computerized Axial Tomography, or CAT Scan, is a diagnostic test that uses X-ray imaging to create a cross-sectional or three-dimensional view of the inside of the body. It may be used to look at organs and other internal structures, and is often incorporated during operations, procedures, or biopsies for a better internal view. CAT Scans are often used on patients with head injuries, and may be utilized in cancer diagnosis or bone problems.
A CAT scan is a painless, low-risk procedure producing minimal radiation. During a CAT Scan, a patient lies on a platform surrounded by a large circular shaped machine while a series of x-rays are used to generate an image for doctors to study. In some cases, an x-ray dye is injected or taken orally to allow organs or blood vessels to be better visible. It’s important to lay as still as possible during a CAT Scan, as movement degrades the quality of the images produced. CAT Scans may last anywhere from a half hour to an hour and a half.
Preparing for your procedure
In preparation for a CAT scan, patients are often asked to avoid food, especially when contrast material is to be used. Contrast material may be injected intravenously, or administered by mouth or by an enema in order to increase the distinction between various organs or areas of the body. Therefore, fluids and food may be restricted for several hours prior to the examination. If the patient has a history of allergy to contrast material (such as iodine), the requesting physician and radiology staff should be notified. All metallic materials and certain clothing around the body are removed because they can interfere with the clarity of the images.