A CT scan is a type of x-ray. It uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body. In this case, images of the abdomen are taken.
A CT scan is done to study the organs and tissue in your abdomen. Your doctor will look for signs of:
Your doctor may recommend an abdominal CT scan if you have the following symptoms:
Sometimes a chemical called contrast is used to help improve the pictures. Complications with contrast are rare but some can have an allergic reaction or kidney problems.
A CT scan does use radiation. You and your doctor will weigh the harms and benefits of this test. A CT scan may not be advised if you are pregnant.
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the test.
Your doctor may tell you to:
Sometimes contrast is necessary. It helps make certain organs and tissue easier to see in pictures. It is often given by mouth in a drink. Other times, it will be injected into a vein. Occasionally it is delivered by an enema.
You will be positioned on a special moving table. The table will move slowly through the CT scanner. You will need to stay still during the entire test. As the scanner takes pictures, you will hear humming and clicking. The technician will ask you to hold your breath at certain points. This will help get a clear picture. You will be able to talk to the technician with an intercom.
If you had contrast, you may be told to drink extra fluid. This will flush the contrast from your body.
You may feel flushed if you received contrast. You may notice a salty or metallic taste in your mouth. You may also feel nauseated.
If you are given contrast, call your doctor if any of the following occurs after the test:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
Radiological Society of North America
Canadian Association of Radiologists
Canadian Radiation Protection Association
CT—Abdomen and Pelvis. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=abdominct. Updated May 15, 2012. Accessed March 28, 2013.
CT scan. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ct-scan/MY00309. Updated March 23, 2012. Accessed October 15, 2007.
Positron Emission Tomography - Computed Tomograpy (PET/CT). Radiology Info.org website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=PET. Updated April 24, 2012. Accessed March 28, 2013.
Rydberg J, Buckwalter KA, et al. Multisection CT: scanning techniques and clinical applications. Radiographics. 2000; 20:1787.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.