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CT Scan (cont.)

During the Procedure

Most CT scans are conducted as an outpatient procedure. Since they do not require hospitalization, the patient has the test and then goes home.

  • The CT scanner looks like a large donut with a narrow table in the middle. Unlike MRI, in which the patient would be placed inside the tunnel of the scanner, when undergoing a CT scan, the patient rarely experiences claustrophobia because of the openness of the doughnut shape of the scanner. Typically the patient lies on their back on the table, which moves through the center of the machine. The patient moves through the scanner either head first or feet first, depending on the part of the body being scanned. For certain scans such as sinuses and middle ear, the patient would lie on their stomach and go through head first.
  • The patient must remain motionless for the length of the study, which is typically just a few minutes. The entire procedure, which includes set-up, the scan itself, checking the pictures, and removing the IV if needed, takes 15 to 45 minutes depending on what part of the body is being scanned.
    • For some studies, the patient will be asked to hold their breath for up to 20 seconds.
    • No metal may be worn.
    • What clothing the patient wears depends on the nature of the study. For a CT scan of the chest, abdomen, or pelvis, for example, usually the patient will change into a hospital gown. For a head CT scan, the patient can wear normal street clothes.
    • Sedation is rarely necessary. The machine is quiet, so the patient hears during the test is a quiet whirr.
    • The technologist is in the next room and can observe the patient through a large window.
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