What is a Head CT Scan?
A computed tomography (CT/CAT) scan of the head is a noninvasive, painless radiology to test for and evaluate various brain abnormalities. A CT scan employs specialized x-ray equipment to create multiple cross sectional images of the head. These images are then analyzed by a computer and converted into three dimensional pictures. Finally, these digital images are read by a radiologist who provides a written diagnostic report of the results. A CT scan is significantly more sensitive than a traditional x-ray in imaging the brain.
A CT scanner is a large apparatus with a donut-like tunnel in the center. The patient lies on a moveable exam table which slides in and out of the “donut hole” while the in the surrounding equipment a rapidly rotating camera takes multiple digital x-ray photos of the head.
Typically, no one else is allowed in the CT scan room due to radiation exposure, but CT scan technologist will watch you through a nearby window while remotely performing the procedure, and if needed will communicate with you using a microphone. The entire painless procedure takes only about 15 or 20 minutes.
If a child is having a CT scan, a parents or a nurse may be allowed into the room but are required to wear a lead apron to prevent unnecessary radiation exposure.
If the doctor orders a CT scan with “contrast” the patient may feel warm all over the body during the injection of the contrast liquid, which sometimes causes a temporary numbing feeling. Others have reported having a metallic taste in their mouth. There are also rare allergic reactions reported which result in hives and pruritis (itching).
When the contrast liquid (iodine dye) is swallowed, it does have an unpleasant but tolerable. Individuals usually complain of bloating after swallowing the dye, but these symptoms quickly subside.
Following the CT scan you can resume your normal activities. If “contrast” was administered during the procedure we encourage you to drink a lot of fluids to clear the contrast dye from your body.
Prior to leaving our facility, a technologist will go over the results of your study with you, unless the CT scan was ordered by your doctor. One of our board certified radiologists will read the digital images from your scan and provide the results (written report) to you or the health care provider who ordered the test.
A head CT may be recommended for people with:
- Head, eye, or face fractures or other injuries
- Dizziness, falling, or imbalance difficulties
- Confusion or sudden behavioral changes
- Scanning for potential brain tumors or other cancers
- Suspected brain hemorrhage
- Swelling in the head or facial areas
- Hydrocephaly (brain swelling caused by excessive fluid)
- Suspected aneurysms or atrioventricular (AV) abnormalities
- During various surgical procedures
- Follow-up after surgery or various therapies
If you have any allergies or asthma you need to inform the technologist or the staff member scheduling your appointment. Individuals with allergies or asthma are sometimes required to take some medications at least 24 hours prior to the procedure.
Women must inform their physician or the technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. A CT scan is generally not recommended during pregnancy unless your physician determines that the benefits of the scan override the risks.
Please do not eat two to three hours prior to the procedure. When arriving to Accuscan you should wear loose-fitting clothing or a gown can be provided.
All metal objects including eyeglasses, jewelry, hairpins, and dentures can interfere with CT scan imaging and must be removed or left home prior to the scan.
Advantages vs. Disadvantages of a CT Head Scan
Advantages of CT
- A CT scan is a painless, non-invasive procedure specifically designed to detect pathology inside the head
- A Ct scan provides doctors detailed images of the brain’s nervous tissue
- A CT scan is superior to an MRI for evaluating skull fractures and other head trauma
- A CT scan is the superior modality for identifying the presence of a stroke early in its evolution
- CT is preferred when diagnosing of brain hemorrhage (Subarachnoid hemorrhage)
- CT scan far less expensive than an MRI an equally as fast
- Motion artifacts present fewer problems with a CT scan compared with an MRI
- A CT scan can be performed on patients with various implanted medical devices
- A CT scan presents dynamic imaging and thus allows for invasive biopsies to be performed simultaneously
Disadvantages of CT
- Unlike an MRI, a CT scan exposes the patient to radiation, which equals the radiation exposure that people normally would be exposed to in about twelve months
- A CT scan is inferior to an MRI in identifying pathology of soft tissues
- A CT scan is inferior to MRI in identifying areas of inflammation or infection of the brain
- A CT scan should not be performed on pregnant women because of the radiation exposure risk to the unborn fetus
- The dye used in a CT scan is iodine based and can cause allergic reactions. The dye has been known to lead to kidney failure in individuals with diabetes
- CT scans should not be repeated in children because of the lifetime risk of radiation exposure
Make an appointment TODAY by calling 801-456-7226, it may be the most significant ten minutes of your life.