CT Colonography

(Computed Tomography Colonography; Virtual Colonoscopy)

Definition

CT colonography is a radiology test that looks at your large intestines, also called your colon. It is one of many options for colon cancer screenings.

Reasons for Test    TOP

This test is used to look for polyps or cancers of the colon.

Colon Polyps

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Possible Complications    TOP

CT colonography is safe. It can be used if you are too sick to have other forms of colon cancer screening.

In some cases, a contrast material is used. One complication may be an allergic reaction to the contrast.

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Test

  • Do not eat for 8-12 hours prior to the test.
  • A bowel cleansing will be done with a laxative. The goal of the cleansing is to rid your colon of all stool. The laxative will cause you to have many bowel movements over several hours.
  • If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medications.

Description of the Test

You will be positioned on your back on a movable x-ray table. Just before the test, a small tube will be inserted into your rectum. Air will be gently pumped through this tube. The table will move slowly though the donut-shaped CT scanner. While this is happening, you will need to lie very still. You will be asked to hold your breath during the scan. The scanning test will then be repeated with you lying on your stomach.

After Test    TOP

You will be able to leave after the test is done. You can resume your normal diet and activities.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

30-40 minutes

Will It Hurt?    TOP

You may feel cramping and bloating. You may feel the urge to have a bowel movement.

Results    TOP

An expert will review the images. If something abnormal is seen, your doctor may suggest a colonoscopy.

Call Your Doctor    TOP

If you were given contrast, call your doctor if you notice:

  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Difficulty breathing

In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

American College of Gastroenterology
http://www.acg.gi.org
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
http://www.cag-acg.org
Canadian Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.ca

References:

CT colonography. RadiologyInfo.org—American College of Radiology website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 16, 2014. Accessed September 17, 2014.
Fletcher RH. Colorectal cancer screening on stronger footing. NEJM. 2008;359:1285-1287.
Johnson CD, et al. Accuracy of CT Colonography for Detection of Large Adenomas and Cancers. NEJM. 2008;359(12): 1207-1217.
Mulhall P, Veerappan GR, Jackson JL, et al. Meta-analysis: computed tomographic colonography. Ann Intern Med. 2005;142(8):635-650.
Yee J. Screening CT Colonography. Radiol Clin North Am. 2004;42(4):757-766.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 9/17/2014