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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan or CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) Scan

A Computed Tomography (CT) scan, also known as a "CAT" scanner, is a large squared-off donut through which a patient passes. A CT scan is used to detect tumors, lymph node and bone abnormalities. It uses x-ray equipment and computer processing to produce pictures of organs and body parts.

CT provides clearer, more detailed pictures than traditional X-rays. It serves a wide range of purposes, such as diagnosing bone fractures and preparing for orthopedic surgery. Many exams involve contrast: a drink or injection that makes the images more informative. Patients have a blood test beforehand to make sure the contrast is safe for them. The technologist performing the exam is nearby and able to talk to the patient throughout the scan.

Specialty Services / Procedures

  • Cardiac Angiography
  • CT Enterography
  • Virtual Colonoscopy
  • CT Guided Biopsies and Drainages
  • Fiducial Marking for Cancer Treatment
  • Radiofrequency Ablation Procedures
  • Pediatric exams with and without conscious sedation

What Can I Expect Before My Exam?

When you arrive in Radiology, you will be registered by a member of our Patient Access Services team and then be greeted by a CT Technologist, who will explain your specific exam to you. You will be asked to complete a contrast history form and answer questions about any medications you may be taking. Please bring a list of your current medications with you to your appointment. Based on your medical history and/or physician request, the length of your exam may vary from approximately a ½ hour to approximately 2 hours. 

Some exams require oral contrast. In this case, the technologist will administer the oral contrast and explain the process for this exam to you. The technologists need to wait approximately an hour and a half for the oral contrast to work its way through your intestines before they can begin imaging.  For these exams, please plan to spend approximately 2 hours in the department.

Many exams also require IV contrast. If this is the case and you do not need oral contrast, the technologist will take you to the scanner area to prepare you for your imaging exam.

What Can I Expect During My Exam?

You will be asked to lie down on the CT scanner table - either on your back or your stomach - and the technologist will monitor you the entire time. You may be asked to hold your breath for certain parts of the scan; it is very important you hold still so that your pictures are clear. The table will move in and out of the tube, capturing "slices" or pictures of the area. 

The entire scan lasts about 15 minutes. Once the scan is completed, the technologist will review the images to make sure the scan is complete. Then, they will bring you out of the room and remove your IV if necessary.

What Can I Expect After My Exam?

Once the test is completed you can resume normal daily activities. If you received IV contrast, we ask that you drink plenty of water for the next 24 hours to help flush it out. If you drank oral contrast, you might notice that your stools appear white for about one day after the test. This is completely normal.  

When Can I Expect My Results?

Once the radiologist reads your images, your ordering physician will receive your results typically within 24 to 48 hours. Your physician will go over the findings with you.

To obtain copies of your images, please call the film library at 617.414.5882.

For specific information regarding our CT scan department, please contact:

Christine Seay  
Manager of CT


Call: 617.414.XRAY (9729)

Newton Pavilion
88 East Newton Street
1st Floor

Menino Pavilion
40 Harrison Avenue
1st Floor

Shapiro Center
725 Albany Street
Lower Level

Moakley Building
830 Harrison Avenue
1st Floor

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Call: 617.414.XRAY (9729)

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