Abdominal CT scan – When and why?

Abdominal CT scan is a diagnostic method used to detect diseases of the stomach, intestines, blood vessels, and other internal structures. This examination is fast, painless, noninvasive and accurate. Pictures are made by a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal and/or axial images of the body. In emergency cases, doctors use a CT scan to reveal internal injuries and bleeding quickly enough to help save lives.

How is the abdominal CT scan done?

CT imaging method is based on the principle of X-ray, by using radiation to display structures of the body. In contrast to the classical X-ray, during the CT examination, the X-ray beam moves around the body. This allows radiologists to get different views of the same organ or structure. To find out more about the difference between CT and MRI scan click here.

CT scan can be done with or without contrast. Contrast is a substance you can take orally or get injected into a vein to see the particular organ or tissue more clearly. Radiologists may use CT scan of the abdomen to visualize the position of the needle during biopsy of abdominal organs and tumors or during aspiration of fluid from the abdomen.

Your doctor will probably ask you not to eat for 2 to 4 hours prior the examination. You may be also asked to stop taking certain medications. During the procedure, you will lie down on a table, therefore we recommend you to wear loose and comfortable clothes (you may also be given a hospital gown). Before the exam, remove all metal items you can:

  • eyeglasses
  • jewelry, including body piercings
  • hair clips
  • dentures
  • hearing aids
  • bras with the metal underwire

Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, Radiopaedia.org.

When may I need abdominal CT scan?

If some of the following symptoms occurred, your doctor may require a CT scan:

  • pain in your abdominal area
  • the unknown mass in your abdomen
  • unexplained weight loss
  • infections
  • diarrhea/obstipation
  • blood in the stool
  • injuries following trauma

By evaluation of the CT scan, the doctors can confirm/exclude the diagnosis. Moreover, CT scan may be used for monitoring the progression/regression of your already known disease or to check, whether the ongoing treatment is helpful:

  • kidney stones
  • abdominal infections
  • bowel obstruction
  • post-operative complications
  • traumatic injuries
  • vascular disease, e.g. aortic aneurysm
  • cancer
  • bowel perforation

Generally, a CT scan is a widely used imaging technique. Although it is connected with some risks and complications, still represents one of the best diagnostic tools in medicine. Choosing the right imaging center may be crucial for your doctor to make the right conclusion of your diagnosis and start the proper treatment.

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