CT Scan FAQs

What is a CT scan?

CT (computed tomography) is an imaging procedure that uses special equipment with the aid of a computer to produce detailed, 3D images of any part of the body. The exam is fast, painless and can detect and diagnose a wide variety of abnormalities.


At Washington Health System Washington Hospital, the CT technologists are certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and are specially trained to operate the CT scanners. The CT technologists perform these examinations under the supervision of the radiologist. Radiologists, who specialize in this type of imaging, will then interpret the exam.


What are some reasons a CT exam is performed?

CT provides detailed cross sectional images and diagnostic information for almost every part of the body. It is one of the best tools for studying the brain, chest, abdomen, pelvis, and skeleton. It is often the method preferred for diagnosing many different abnormalities. CT is also used for planning radiation treatments for tumors, to guide a biopsy (removal of a piece of tissue) of a particular area, or to determine whether the cancer is responding to treatment. A new vascular imaging technique that is non- invasive, CTA (computed tomography angiography), allows for excellent demonstration of the vascular anatomy. A CTA may diagnose a narrowing or obstruction of the arteries, an aneurysm, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, coronary artery disease or another vascular condition. Our multislice spiral CT scanners utilize the most recent technology available.


What are the benefits?
  • CT scanning is a noninvasive procedure
  • CT is able to visualize bone, soft tissue, and blood vessels all at the same time
  • CT imaging may eliminate the need for exploratory surgery
  • CT imaging is useful in emergency cases; it can rapidly diagnose internal injuries and bleeding
  • CT can be performed if there is an implanted medical device of any kind
  • CT helps determine who is at the highest and lowest risk for coronary artery disease.


What kind of CT scanner will be used for my exam?

Washington Health System uses spiral state-of-the-art multislice CT scanners. With the state-of-the-art scanners, we have the advantages of lower radiation doses, reduced volume of IV contrast, shorter examination times, and high-resolution images. The terms “spiral” or “helical” refer to the shape of the path taken by the x-ray beam during scanning. Our scanners are equipped with dose modulation functions, which allows the lowest possible dose to be given. This is the newest advance in CT technology.


What is new in CT technology?


AIDR (Adaptive Iterative Dose Reduction) - is the iterative dose reconstruction software that incorporates significant system enhancements by reducing radiation dose compared to conventional scanning. AIDR can be applied to all acquisition modes for routine and advanced clinical use and is able to remove image noise resulting in dose reduction. It helps achieve the As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) principle, while still producing the image quality needed for accurate diagnoses.


Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring
A non-invasive CT scan that will show the location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries. This exam does not require injection of iodinated contrast material. The purpose for a calcium scoring exam is to detect coronary artery disease at an early stage when there are no symptoms and to determine severity. Not all health insurance plans cover this test.


CTA Coronary Arteries - Computed Tomography Angiography of the Coronary Arteries
A coronary CTA is a non-invasive heart-imaging test used to visualize the coronary arteries. With the use of our 64 multislice CT scanner to visualize blood flow in the coronary arteries, and an independent workstation to manipulate the data into three-dimensional images, we are able to extract the most clinically useful information from the study. This helps determine whether either fatty deposits or calcium deposits have built up in the coronary arteries. If left untreated, these areas of build-up, called plaques, can cause heart disease.


What are the hours of operation?

Washington Health System Washington Hospital performs CT exams for outpatients at the hospital Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.


Peters Township Diagnostic Center performs CT exams Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.


Do I need an appointment?

Yes, you or your physician may call (724) 250-4300 to schedule your exam.


Do I need a referral or prescription to have a CT examination?

A prescription is necessary for you to have the exam. Please remember to place the script in your wallet prior to leaving the doctors office, so it will be on your person when you arrive for the exam. If you do not have a prescription or your doctor has not sent one to the hospital, your CT exam may be delayed.


How do I prepare for the scan?

You may wear comfortable clothing for your exam. Please try to avoid clothing with zippers and snaps, as metal objects can affect the image. You may need to change into a hospital gown for some exams. If you are to receive intravenous contrast, you will not be permitted to eat solid food for approximately three hours prior to your test. You may, however, have clear liquids. If your examination is of the abdomen or pelvis, you will need to drink an oral contrast two hours prior to the exam. Prescription medicines can be taken the day of your test.


What is contrast?

Contrast is the term used for a liquid taken by mouth or a liquid injected into a vein via an intravenous catheter that is placed in your arm or hand.


Oral contrast is a dilute barium solution that is drunk two hours prior to the exam time. It is used to identify your stomach and intestines on scans of the abdomen and pelvis. In some cases, it may cause mild diarrhea.


Intravenous contrast or “x-ray dye” is a dilute iodine material that is injected into a vein in your arm or hand. It is used to make blood vessels, organs, and tissues visible on the images. Some people experience a hot, flushed feeling or a metallic taste in their mouth. These sensations will go away within a few minutes. We only use “non-ionic” contrast, which minimizes the possibility of an allergic reaction. Any allergies to IV contrast or iodine should be brought to the attention your doctor and/or the CT technologist. Please bring someone with you if you are going to have intravenous contrast. A consent form giving permission to have the exam will need to be signed.


Are there any risks?

In rare cases, people have an allergic reaction to the iodinated contrast. They may experience a mild itching or hives. A more severe reaction would be extreme difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath and swelling of the throat. If you experience any of these symptoms, tell the technologist immediately so you can be treated promptly. Our CT department is well equipped to deal with any type of reaction.


Women should inform their physician or technologist if there is a chance that they are pregnant.

The amount of radiation a person receives during a CT exam is kept as low as possible while still achieving an optimal image. The CT exam is used to provide the best possible care to the patient. This risk can be outweighed by the diagnostic benefits from CT in diagnosing conditions and diseases that are already present.


Where may I pick up the oral contrast?

Your doctor may be able to give you an oral contrast packet with instructions.  In addition, oral contrast may be picked up at the following locations:


Washington Health System Radiology

(724) 223-3803

M-F 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m..

Diagnostics Center - Burgettstown

(724) 947-6261

M,T,Th 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Outpatient Center - Greene County

(724) 852-7559

M,W,F 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Outpatient Center - Neighbor Health

(724) 223-3750

M-F 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Medical Plaza - Peters Township

(724) 942-6460

M-F 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Outpatient Center - Peters Township

(724) 942-6460

M-F 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 2:30p.m.


What will happen on the day of the test?

Arrive one hour prior to your exam time and go to Registration/Admitting on the second floor of the hospital, just inside the main lobby, to sign in. You will be directed to the Lab for a blood test or instructed to go to the X-ray waiting room. Your doctor’s written prescription for the exam will be taken and a CT technologist will come to get you for your test. A few questions concerning your medical and allergy history will be taken. If needed, an intravenous catheter will be inserted into a vein in your arm or hand and, if necessary, you will be given additional oral contrast to drink. A CT technologist will explain the test you are having and answer any questions you have. The exam will take between 5-20 minutes.


Why do I need a blood test?

Certain CT exams require a special blood test, a Creatinine and GFR, prior to giving IV contrast. This test determines your kidney function and the ability to excrete the contrast from your body following the exam.


Are there any special instructions for diabetics?

It may be necessary to stop taking your diabetes medication for 48 hours following the test. If you take oral medication for diabetes, the CT department will provide special instructions following your exam. Notify the technologist prior to your exam.


What happens during the scan?

You will be positioned on the CT table. The technologist will control the movement of the scanner and check your progress from an adjoining room. There is constant communication between you and the CT technologist via the two-way intercom in the exam room. For most exams, you will be instructed to hold your breath. Due to our high-speed scanners, breath holding is normally 20 seconds or less. If you are receiving the intravenous contrast, the technologist will closely monitor it. If you feel any pain, burning or pressure at the injection site, notify the technologist immediately. If you feel uncomfortable at any time during the scan, tell the technologist. It is extremely important that you remain still during the procedure, as patient movement will blur the images. Following the exam, you may resume your regular diet with no after effects.


How do I get the results?

The radiologist will review the images and a signed report will be sent to the requesting physician within a few days. Urgent results will be called immediately to your doctor.


Will I be closed in like when I had an MRI?

The gantry, or opening, in a CT scanner is larger than that of an MRI scanner. Most people that experience problems with claustrophobia do not have a problem with a CT exam.


Where can people get more information about CT?

Additional information about CT is available from:


Department of the American College of Radiology
891 Preston White Drive
Reston, VA 20191–4397

1-800-227-5463 (1-800-ACR-LINE)



Any questions?

Please call Washington Health System Washington Hospital CT Department at (724) 223-3803.