Before a CT scan

Getting a CT scan doesn't have to be a scary thing.


What happens before a CT scan?

CT scans are painless and, with the exceptions of those done in emergency situations, patients can have the test and then go home.

Discussing CT scan with doctor in Two Views

Before the scan, the facility performing the test will ask you a series of questions about your health. Inform them and/or your doctor of any recent illnesses or other medical conditions, and if you have a history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid problems. Women should always inform their physician and the CT technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.

You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the test. You should inform your physician of any medications you are taking and if you have any allergies. If you have a known allergy to contrast material, or "dye," your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.

If you are claustrophobic or have some anxiety about getting a CT, your doctor may prescribe a sedative to help calm you. If an infant or toddler is having a CT scan, the doctor may give the child a sedative to keep them calm and/or still.

hospital radiation sign in Two Views

Most CT scans are conducted as an outpatient procedure, so they can be done in a hospital or an outpatient facility.

Preparing for a CT scan largely depends on which part of the body will be scanned. You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your exam. In some instances, you may be asked to remove your clothing and wear a hospital gown. Since x-rays travel easily through fabric, you may be able to wear your underwear for these cases.

However most places let you wear what you have on as long as you remove any metal objects, such as jewelry, that might interfere with image results. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work.

hospital radiation sign in Two Views

A contrast material is needed for some, but not all CT scans. The contrast, or 'dye' as it's sometimes called, helps highlight the areas that need to be examined. This contrast material actually blocks the X-rays and appears white on your final images. Contrast material can be introduced into your body in a variety of ways.

Oral Contrast.
If your esophagus or stomach is being scanned for instance, you may need to swallow a drink containing contrast material. The worst part of it all however, is the drink may taste unpleasant and in some cases, may cause diarrhea later.

Injection of a contrast.
Contrast agents can be injected into an intravenous line to help view your gallbladder, urinary tract, liver or blood vessels. Some people experience a feeling of warmth during the injection, or a metallic taste in their mouth. This is common and nothing to worry about.

Rectal Contrast.
A barium enema is a type of contrast material used to help visualize the intestines or bowels. It can make a patient feel bloated and slightly uncomfortable. But it is the best way to get an accurate depiction of what the doctors need to see.

Finally, you should arrange for someone to take you home after the test in case you have had any medicine to help you relax. Make arrangements for someone to be there with you.

Getting a CT scan:

Find out what the experience is like and what you should expect.

Before the CT
During the CT
After the CT


CT of foot in two views

ABOVE: Computer Tomography (CT) of a foot.

CT or CAT scan of leg joint two views

ABOVE: Patient getting CT scan of leg joints.

shoulder joint CT two views

ABOVE: CAT scan of shoulder.

CT scanner two views

ABOVE: Patient with GE Light Speed CT scanner.

Facet joint CAT two views

ABOVE: Back and abdomin shown in CAT scan.

cervical spine CT two views

ABOVE: Cervical spine CT in coronal, sagittal and axial views.


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Other Types of CT or CAT Scans

AbdomenAdrenal GlandsAnkleAppendixArmBackBile DuctsBladderBlood VesselsBoneBowelBrainBreastCardiacCATCervical SpineCervixChestChinCranialFallopian TubeFetusFootFull BodyGallbladderHeadHeartJawJointKidneyKneeKUBLegLiverLumbar SpineLungLymph NodesNeckOveriesPancreasPelvisPenisProstateScrotumShoulderSinusSkullSpineSpleenTesticlesThoracic CavityThoracic SpineThyroidTumorUrinary TractUrogramUterus


IMPORTANT: The information on this page, and throughout the entire site, is not intended to provide advice or treatment for a specific situation. Consult your physician and medical team for information and treatment plans on your specific condition(s). Images are shown for illustrative purposes. Do not attempt to draw conclusions or make diagnoses by comparing these image to other medical images, particularly your own.

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