If you have developed an unexplained medical problem that’s proving difficult to diagnose, it’s possible that your doctor may refer you for a CT scan to see what’s going on beneath the surface.
The idea of having such a scan may be daunting for some people. However, finding out what it involves and what this type of scan is used for may help to ease your worries and make the experience less stressful.
What Is A CT Scan?
CT scans – also known as computed tomography – use a combination of cutting-edge computer technology and x-rays to generate detailed images of your body.
Providing more accurate pictures than a regular X-ray, the images produced by CT scans can be used by doctors to diagnose an array of conditions.
These include different cancers; damage to your bones and joints; internal trauma; a build-up of fluid in the body; and the presence of lung damage and diseases such as emphysema.
What Does It Involve?
Having a CT scan is a similar process to having an MRI. You will be taken to the scanning room, where a technician will ask you to remove any metallic objects from your person.
You will then lie down on a table which will slide inside the CT scanner, where the x-rays will begin creating images of your bodily structures. Unlike an MRI, which can be very noisy, CT scanners make no sound, so the experience is more relaxing.
If you’re having a CT scan of your chest or your abdominal area, you might be asked to hold your breath for a brief period of time, usually between 10 and 25 seconds. This helps the scan create a clear picture of those areas.
What About Using Contrasts?
Sometimes, patients undergoing a CT scan will be given a contrast solution to help make their organs or blood vessels more visible on the scans. The contrast solution can be given in one of three ways: by injection, orally, or via an enema, if it is your intestines that are being scanned.
While contrast solutions do not generally cause any problems, on occasion they can trigger an allergic reaction. In some cases, this reaction is mild and can cause a rash or some itching. However, in a few rare cases, it can trigger a life-threatening allergic response. As a result, you will be monitored following the CT scan, to see how your body responds to the contrast.
To try and prevent allergic reactions, it’s important that you tell your doctor about any allergies you have before you are due to have the scan – including allergies to seafood and any medications.
How Long Will The Scan Take?
The length of time your CT scan takes will depend on the area of your body being scanned. As a result, it could take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, although more complex scans could last even longer.
Are CT Scans Dangerous?
Like X-rays, CT scans are considered non-invasive and safe. Although they do produce ionizing radiation, which can be harmful in large amounts, the amount you will be subjected due during a CT scan is very small. As a result, the risk is deemed to be minimal. However, because radiation can accumulate in your body over time, health professionals prefer to keep the number of CT scans and X-rays you are given to a minimum.
Because of the radiation, CT scans are also not recommended for children or pregnant women.
Are CT Scans Expensive?
As you have probably already guessed, CT scans can be very costly – which isn’t surprising if you consider how much the scanning equipment is worth in the first place.
Some of the newest CT equipment can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, to procure – and, once they have been purchased, they will require additional funds to keep them well-maintained and fully functioning.
In addition, the specialized rooms in which the scanners are housed to treat patients are also costly to build and must be designed to withstand high levels of cumulative radiation.
Factor in all of these bills, as well as the salary of the trained technicians and radiologists who have been hired to run the machines and make diagnoses from the results, and you will see that just one CT scanner can cost a medical facility a monumental amount of money. This is why the cost of a CT scan can be so prohibitive.
How Much Is A CT Scan Without Insurance?
If you’ve been referred for a CT scan but you don’t have insurance to cover it, the exact price can vary depending on where you are, what type of scan you require, what kind of care facility you will be using, and whether or not your scan is deemed routine or an emergency.
There are ways of having a CT scan without insurance in the USA. The prices can differ, but it’s worth contacting experts such as Ezra, who can give you more relevant advice.
What About If You Do Have Insurance?
If you do have medical insurance, and the insurer deems a CT scan to be necessary as part of your treatment process, they will most likely pay at least some of the costs. However, the precise amount that they pay – or even whether they pay at all – depends on your insurance plan, as well as other factors, such as whether or not you have paid your deductible yet.
What Happens Once I’ve Had My Scan?
After your CT scan has been completed, you should be able to go home right away if no contrast was required.
If you did have a contrast solution, you will be kept at the hospital or medical center for between 15 minutes and an hour to ensure you don’t have any reactions. Once they are satisfied that all is well you can return to your normal daily activities.
When it comes to receiving your results, they will generally take about 24 hours unless you have had a CT scan in an emergency setting, in which case they could be available within an hour of the scan. For non-emergency patients, you will be given an appointment or your healthcare provider will contact you to discuss their findings and whether or not any treatment is necessary.