CT Chest – Computed Tomography of the Chest

A CT Chest scan is a noninvasive and painless test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. It is an x-ray procedure that uses special equipment with the aid of a computer to produce detailed cross sectional images of the chest. The scans are done either with or without an iodinated contrast material. The intravenous contrast material is given to make the blood vessels in the chest show more clearly. This contrast material is not radioactive. These images look at the lungs, heart and nearby tissues not seen on a regular x-ray.


What are some common reasons the scan is ordered?

  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abnormal chest x-ray
  • Pulmonary Embolus (blood clot)
  • Lung disease (COPD)
  • Aneurysm
  • Radiation planning
  • Evaluate injury to the chest, including the heart, blood vessels, lungs, ribs and spine


What are a few things a Chest CT can show?

  • Various lung disease:
    • Tuberculosis
    • Emphysema and COPD
    • Bronchiectasis
    • Interstitial lung disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Pneumonia
  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Tumors


How should I prepare?

  • Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing to your exam; you will be asked to remove any clothing on which there are metal or plastic buttons, zippers, snaps, etc. You may be given a gown to wear during the exam.
  • For chest exams, it is NOT necessary to drink an oral contrast.
  • If the scan is ordered with an iodinated contrast injection, do not eat for approximately 3 hours prior to exam. Fluids may be taken.
  • Take all your prescribed medications with water only.
  • Be sure to let your physician know about any known allergy to iodine. If allergic to iodine, you will be given medication to take the night before and the day of the scan to counteract any allergic reaction you may have to the iodinated contrast during the procedure.
  • Please bring a list of all your current medications with you to the hospital.
  • If you are having the iodinated contrast injection, have diabetes, and taking a medication containing Metformin, it must be held for 48 hours after your exam. Contact your doctor to restart your medicine.
  • If scheduled at the hospital, you must register at the Admitting/Registration office on the main (second) floor one hour before your exam time. If your scan is with the iodinated contrast material, you will be instructed to proceed to the lab and then to the Radiology department.

    If scheduled at Peters Township Diagnostic Center, please arrive 30 minutes before your exam time. If your scan is with the iodinated contrast material, we must have the results of your blood work (Creatinine and GFR) prior to you arriving.


What should I expect?

  • A complete history will be taken prior to the scan.
  • If your scan is being done with an iodinated contrast injection, a consent form for the procedure will be signed and an IV catheter will be placed in your arm for the injection.

    During the injection of the contrast material, you may feel a warm flushed feeling and have a metallic taste in your mouth. This is normal and will pass in a few minutes.
  • You will lie on your back on the CT table with your arms resting comfortably on the pillow under your head.
  • While you are in the exam room during the procedure, the technologist will always be able to see, hear, and speak to you.
  • For pediatric patients, a parent will be allowed in the room but will be required to wear a lead apron to minimize radiation exposure.
  • The exam will take approximately 10 - 20 minutes.
  • After the exam is completed, you may resume a regular diet.
  • If you were given the iodinated contrast material, it is very important to drink additional amounts of water for the next 24 hours. This will help to flush the contrast material from your body. The contrast material is entirely eliminated from the body through the urine.


Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

One of our board certified radiologists will analyze the images and send a report to your primary care physician and the physician who ordered the exam. This detailed report will be sent to your physician’s office within 24-48 hours. The physician’s office will call you or the results will be reviewed at your next appointment.


What are the benefits of a CT Chest scan?

  • CT scanning is painless, noninvasive and precise.
  • CT scanning provides detailed images of bone, soft tissue and blood vessels.
  • No radiation remains in your body after a CT examination.
  • A CT can be performed if you have an implanted medical device of any kind, unlike MRI.
  • CT is fast, which is important for patients who have trouble holding their breath.
  • In emergency cases, it will reveal internal injuries and bleeding very quickly.
  • Low-dose CT scans of the chest use a lower dose of radiation than conventional chest CT.
  • A diagnosis determined by CT scanning may eliminate the need for exploratory surgery and surgical biopsy.
  • For your safety, the CT scanners at The Washington Hospital are accredited by the American College of Radiology and meet their guidelines for radiation exposure.


What are the risks of a CT Chest scan?

  • Women should always inform their physician and the CT technologist if there is any possibility of pregnancy.
  • CT scanning is usually not recommended for pregnant women unless medically necessary because of the potential risk to the baby.
  • Nursing mothers should wait 24 hours after an iodinated contrast material injection before resuming breast feeding.
  • The risk of serious allergic reactions statistically occurs one to two times per 10,000 examinations and our department is well equipped to deal with these emergencies.
  • In some patients with reduced kidney function, the dye used in CT scanning may worsen kidney function.


If you have any questions/concerns about your CT exam, please call us at (724) 225-7000 and ask for the CT department.


If you should have to cancel your appointment, please contact us at (724) 250-4300 as soon as possible.


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