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Computerized Tomography (CT)

Overview of Computerized Tomography (CT)

Computerized Tomography (CT, or sometimes called CAT) continues to advance and expand its use in health care imaging. Saint Mary's Health Care strives to remain current by offering the latest in technology, along with providing an expansive range of CT services including CT Cardiac Angiography.

In addition, Mercy Health Saint Mary's continues to make CT more accessible to members of the community with the recent placement of a CT system at the Mercy Health Southwest Campus in Byron Center.

We can schedule and perform your examination within 24 hours (excluding holidays and weekends), and will provide results to your physician promptly.

CT (Computerized Tomography) uses X-ray and special detectors to project detailed images of your body on to a computer screen in a two dimensional form.  These images are cross-sectional, giving many different views of the same body part.  Different body parts absorb radiation in various degrees, allowing visualization of many shades of black and white.  A contrast agent may also be used to enhance the tissues to a greater extent.  CT is used in, but not limited to, diagnoses of many different cancers, vascular diseases, bone fractures, guided biopsies, and pre-surgical planning.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

How you prepare for your CT scan depends on what part of the body is being examined. You will be informed of any special instructions when your CT is scheduled.  For scans of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis, if you wear loose fitting clothing without metallic objects such as belts, snaps, and zippers, it may not be necessary for you to change into a hospital gown. Jewelry should not be worn on the body part being scanned. If the scan is for your head, neck, or face, you will be asked to remove hearing aids, dentures, hairpins, etc. If your exam requires the administration of intravenous and/or oral contrast, you are to refrain from eating or drinking for 4 hours prior to the exam time. Although we ask that you not drink any fluids in this time period (other than oral contrast), it is permissible to take necessary medications with a small amount of water and partake in oral hygiene.  If you take Glucophage or Metformin, please check with your physician. The recommendation is that patients who are going to get IV contrast stop taking this medication the day of the exam and for 48 hours post scan, but again, this needs to be approved by your physician.

What can I expect during/after the procedure?

An IV will be accessed prior to any exam that requires intravenous contrast material. Please notify your technologist of any special needs you may have at that time, and they will accommodate you to the best of their ability. Once all preparations are in place, you will then be asked to lie on the imaging table and a technologist will position you for the exam. The table will move through the gantry (a “donut-like” device that houses the x-ray tube and detectors) to capture your images. Your CT scan will only take a few minutes to complete and, in most cases, you can resume normal daily activities immediately after. 

Receiving Your Results

Your exam will be read by a board-certified radiologist. (Our technologists are not qualified to interpret or give scan results). The report is usually transferred to your physician within 1 to 2 business days, but additional time may be needed for your physician to review and correlate with other tests that you have had. If you have not heard anything within 5 business days after your exam, you can contact your physician’s office.

What Mercy Health locations offer this service?

We have two convenient locations with quick access to highways and free parking.

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Campus
200 Jefferson Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503  Map
Mercy Health Southwest Campus
2373 64th Street
Byron Center, MI 49315  Map

Frequently Asked Questions

Computerized Tomography (CT) has revolutionized diagnostic medicine. This advanced X-ray technique allows your doctor and radiologist to view bones, organs, blood vessels, and even your heart in extraordinarily fine detail. This information helps doctors diagnose a wide variety of conditions earlier and faster than ever.

What is CT?

CT, which stands for Computerized Tomography (sometimes referred to as a CAT scan), is a fast, painless diagnostic tool doctors use to see inside the body. Physicians use the information they get from a CT scan to rule out or confirm the presence of certain abnormalities or diseases. If doctors do see something on your scan, that information can be extremely vital in determining the proper treatment options.

A CT scanner combines X-rays with advanced computer processing technology to create accurate, detailed images of your internal structures and organs.

CT exams are quick and comfortable. You will be asked to lie still on a table as it gently moves you through the scanner. In most cases, you will be asked several questions before your CT scan. Be sure to inform your physician or the technologist if you have any allergies or believe you are pregnant.

Why is CT important?

CT scans allow doctors to see images of your internal organs and structures in great detail from a variety of angles. This gives your physicians critical information more quickly and, in many cases, more economically than they could achieve with other tests or invasive techniques. In those cases where surgery is recommended, the information from the CT scan helps the surgical team in their planning process.

Is CT like an X-ray?

Yes. CT uses X-rays in conjunction with advanced computer technology to generate very accurate and detailed images of your internal organs and structures. Your technologist will step into a control room to conduct the actual exam. You may notice a mechanical noise coming from the scanner. That is just the X-ray tube being activated and rotating around your body.

How much radiation is involved? 

We strive to follow the ALARA philosophy (As Low As Reasonably Achievable).  The American College of Radiology has set standards for allowable/maximum radiation dose per scan and, at Mercy Health Saint Mary's, our scans are typically well below these standards.  All of our CT Technologists are ARRT board certified with either special training in CT or CT board certified.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding radiation exposure, you should contact your physician.

Will the CT Scan hurt?

No. CT is a painless, non-invasive test that will not hurt at all. Your exam may require that a contrast agent be given intravenously that will make your blood vessels and tissues more visible. You will then be asked to lie perfectly still once the technologist has positioned you appropriately on the table. You may also be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds during the exam. Any movement may require the exam to be repeated.

How long will my CT exam take?

The length of your CT exam depends on which particular study, or studies, your doctor has ordered. Most exams are quick, lasting just a few minutes. You may be asked to arrive at the facility 15 or 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam time.

Do I have to do anything special to prepare for my CT scan?

How you prepare for your CT scan depends on what part of the body is being examined. You will be informed of any special instructions when your CT is scheduled. In some cases, the staff may ask you to change into a hospital gown for the exam.

What is a contrast agent?

A contrast agent is a liquid substance that makes certain tissues stand out more clearly against their surroundings, enabling the finest details to show up on the X ray, improving diagnostic accuracy. You may be given the contrast agent intravenously or orally. If your exam requires the use of intravenous contrast, you will be asked a number of screening questions to make sure it is okay for you to receive the contrast.  Be sure to tell the technologist if you have any allergies to food, medications, iodine, or prior experience with the contrast discussed above.  In all cases, the contrast agent will leave your body naturally within a few hours. 

Will I be alone during the CT exam?

During your CT exam, you will be in contact with a technologist. Even when he or she is not in the CT room, you will be able to communicate via intercom. The technologist will inform you when the exam is about to start and when it is finished. Family members and/or friends are not permitted to stay with you in the CT room.