A CT scan is done to study the organs and tissue in your abdomen. Your doctor will look for signs of:
Your doctor may recommend an abdominal CT scan if you have the following symptoms:
Blood in urine or stool
Evidence of intestinal blockage.
Yellowed skin color
Fluid buildup in the abdomen
Sometimes a chemical called contrast is used to help improve the pictures. Complications with contrast are rare but some people can have an allergic reaction or
A CT scan does use radiation. You and your doctor will weigh the harms and benefits of this test. A CT scan may not be advised if you are pregnant.
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the test.
What to Expect
Prior to Test
Your doctor may tell you to:
Avoid eating or drinking anything for 4 hours before the test if contrast will be used.
Remove any metal objects, such as jewelry, hearing aids, or dentures.
Description of the Test
Sometimes contrast is necessary. It helps make certain organs and tissue easier to see. It is often given by mouth in a drink. Other times, it will be injected into a vein. Occasionally, it is delivered by an enema.
You will be positioned on a special moving table. The table will move slowly through the CT scanner. You will need to stay still during the entire test. As the scanner takes pictures, you will hear humming and clicking. The technician will ask you to hold your breath at certain points. This will help get a clear picture. You will be able to talk to the technician through an intercom.
If you had contrast, you may be told to drink extra fluid. This will flush the contrast from your body.
How Long Will It Take?
About 30 minutes
Will It Hurt?
You may feel flushed if you received contrast. You may notice a salty or metallic taste in your mouth. You may also feel nauseated.
The CT images will be sent to a radiologist who will analyze them. Your doctor will receive the results and discuss them with you.
Computed tomography (CT)—abdomen and pelvis. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=abdominct. Updated June 16, 2016. Accessed April 3, 2018.
Positron emission tomography—computed tomograpy (PET/CT). Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=PET. Updated January 23, 2017. Accessed April 3, 2018.
Rydberg J, Buckwalter KA, Caldemeyer KD, et al. Multisection CT: scanning techniques and clinical applications. Radiographics. 2000;20(6):1787-1806.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 6/24/2013
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