Abdomen / Pelvis CT Scan
What is a CT scan of the abdomen / pelvis?
Abdominal / Pelvic CT uses a thin beam of X-ray and a rapidly moving X-ray tube to acquire data from different angles around your body which is used to create cross sectional images. For abdominal CT only, images are taken from the tops of your diaphragms to the top of your pelvic bones. For pelvic CT only, images are taken from the top of your pelvic bones through your entire pelvis. Most patients have a scan of both regions at the same time. Abdominal CTs can help to evaluate gastrointestinal pathology and abnormalities involving other organs like your liver and kidneys that can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. They can help stage cancers that originate in the abdomen/pelvis or elsewhere in the body, and can help locate abnormalities not visible on routine abdominal radiographs (X-rays) or analyze abnormalities suggested by radiographs or other imaging procedures.
How do I prepare for my abdominal and/or pelvic CT scan?
Some exams require the patient to ingest oral contrast solution prior to imaging. The oral barium or water will fill your digestive tract and can help to distinguish between normal and abnormal gastrointestinal structures. If you need to drink oral contrast solution, two options are available to you:
- Arrive 2 hours prior to your scheduled appointment time, which allows for parking, registering and drinking the barium sulfate, which needs adequate time for the suspension to travel through the gastrointestinal tract.
- Pick up oral contrast solution in advance (some doctor’s offices may stock it, or you can pick it up from the St. Elizabeth's Medical Center's radiology front desk during normal business hours) and drink it at home. Arrive 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam time.
What will happen during the exam?
When you arrive in radiology, check in at the reception desk, where you will be given some paperwork to fill out explaining, in your words, your medical history and the reason for the exam. You typically will be scanned in your street clothes.
Depending on the reason for the CT scan, you may receive an IV in which we will inject iodinated contrast solution, which will highlight your vascular system and vascular organs, such as your spleen, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
During the actual exam you will lie on a table with your arms raised above your head. This table will rise up and move in and out of a machine. The technologist may ask you specific medical history questions.
Once the instructions and questions are completed the scan will start. It is very important that you hold still.
If you are receiving an injection of contrast, a technologist will stay in the room for the start of the injection and step out just prior to the scan starting again. There will be times when delayed images may be required which means you will need to remain on the table. You will be able to keep your arms in a comfortable position until the scan starts again.
How long will the procedure take and how will I learn the results?
Depending on the reason for your test, the procedure can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, and you will get the results of the exam from your doctor.
What will happen after the exam?
After the exam is complete and you are feeling well, your IV (if any) will be removed and you will be released.
A technologist will process your images using a computer. A radiologist will evaluate the images within 24 hours and dictate a report. A report will be sent to your physician.
Radiologyinfo.org for Patients
The radiology information resource for patients. RadiologyInfo.org tells you how various X-ray, CT, MRI, ultrasound, radiation therapy and other procedures are performed. It also addresses what you may experience and how to prepare for the exams. The website contains over 200 procedure, exam and disease descriptions covering diagnostic and interventional radiology, nuclear medicine, radiation therapy and radiation safety and is updated frequently with new information. All material on the RadiologyInfo.org website is reviewed and approved by experts in the field of radiology from the ACR and RSNA, as well as other professional radiology organizations.