In the last century or so, advancements in the medical field have been nothing short of legendary. And when we talk about these advancements, we refer to both clinical and laboratory aspects of biomedical sciences. Academic disciplines such as biophysics, modern research techniques, and a few others have accelerated the research process considerably. Indeed, when you look at marvels such as CT scans, you truly begin to appreciate the good work done by the researchers. You must have heard about CT scan at least once in your life, in a gathering of friends or family. But have you ever wondered what the whole thing is about actually? What are the nitty-gritties of this test that are oblivious to the public? What is it with contrast? All these and many other questions, and their answers, form the subject matter of today’s discussion about CT scans.
CT scan: An overview
What does CT in CT scan stand for? This is the first question that you should be asking as a novice! Well, it stands for computerized tomography. What happens in a scan of this nature is the next query that should pop up in your mind. Well, this scan is all about combining X-ray images captured from different angles. These images of your body are processed via computer to produced cross-sectional images of your soft tissue, bones, and blood vessels. You can already see why this scan is more valuable as compared to X-rays. It reveals more information than simple X-rays that have become a bit obsolete now.
Why do you need a CT scan?
Before we jump into the details of this procedure, it is important to identify and point out conditions that necessitate it. Who needs it? Well, most commonly, doctors recommend a CT scan for diagnosis of muscular and skeletal tumors, or in some cases, fracture. Pinpointing the exact location of a tumor becomes an easier job via a CT scan. Apart from tumors, the location of blood clots can be revealed easily as well. Diagnosis is one use, but there are other benefits of it as well. Surgeons may use it as a guide procedure during surgery, its usefulness during radiation therapy is also well established. It is also recommended to check for internal bleeding or injuries after an accident.
CT scan procedure
In the case of a contrasted CT scan, an individual is given a special dye that highlights the areas of the body that need to be examined. Indications for a contrasted it are limited, as compared to a non-contracted CT scan. Pain in the pelvis and abdominal region may demand a contrasted CT scan of the abdomen. Examples of it are more and common. For example, a CT scan of the brain, chest, etc. Now, the whole process shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes typically and should be painless, if you are in the hands of a competent professional. You will be requested to lie down on a motorized table that slides into a tunnel via an opening. As the table moves into the scanner, X-ray tubes and detectors rotate around you. The buzzing sounds that you might hear during a CT scan are made with every rotation as images of thin slices of your body are generated and saved. Through all this process, a technician is standing in the room next to your tunnel, so please don’t be afraid! The findings of a CT scan report are interpreted by a radiologist.
Radiation risks associated with CT scan
Ever since we have mentioned the contrast material, we know you are worried about the possible risks associated with a CT scan. Are there any? Well, if you are worried about ionizing radiation exposure, we can assure you that the case is not the same as an X-ray. The radiation dose is very small, and hence, the potential side effects are also not something that you should worry about too much. Risks become even more insignificant if you get a CT scan from a facility that uses new machines and employs competent staff to conduct the test. However, if the radiation dose is not carefully controlled, it can lead to long-term damaging effects, which can result in diseases such as cancer.
MRI vs. CT scan
MRIs are frequently mentioned in testing facilities, and in a radiologist’s office as well. Some of us think CT scans and MRI are the same things when in reality, these are poles apart. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It is a technique that uses radio waves, instead of X-rays as in CT scans, for producing a detailed image of areas such as joints, wrists, chest, and blood vessels. You are wrapped in a magnetic field during an MRI, the images produced are more detailed as compared to the ones generated via CT scan.
CT scan side effects
We know we have talked about the radiation risks already. But are there any other potential side effects related to it that you should be worried about? For pregnant women, a doctor may not recommend this test. While it is clear that a small dose of radiation that you are exposed to during a CT scan cannot cause any harm to the unborn baby, healthcare professionals still like to go for safer options such as ultrasounds or MRIs. Also, in the case of a contrasted, it is better to check with your radiologist if you are allergic to the dye or not. However, contrasting dye allergies are also rare. So, all in all, CT scans are quite a safe procedure!
There is a lot of difference between the prices of a contrasted CT scan and a non-contrasted CT scan. In the case of a contrasted CT scan, the price is higher because of the dye used. It can cost you as much as 5000 PKR in countries like Pakistan, the price can vary depending upon the rates fixed by the scanning facility. On the other hand, non-contrasted CT scans cost only 1500-2000 PKR. But again, this is not a fixed rate by any means.
We have reached the concluding point of this discussion, as you might have guessed it from our tone! But we do hope that you learned a lot from this discussion about it and that if you are undergoing one soon, you aren’t scared of the thing anymore!