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CT Scans

What Is a CT Scan?

CT scans have a doughnut-shaped tube that rotates the x-ray 360 degrees around you. The data captured provides a detailed, 3D view of the inside of your body.

CT scans are a painless, noninvasive way to help your health care provider:

  • Find abnormalities in the body that may be a sign of disease.
  • Learn how far a disease has spread.
  • Show the effects of treatment and how your body is responding to it.
  • Diagnose medical conditions.

Find an imaging location near you


Benefits of a 64-, 128-, or 256-slice CT Scan

Compared to standard CT scanners, our state-of-the-art CT scanners offer improved image quality and speed.

High-Tech CT Scanners at UPMC

As a leading imaging care provider throughout Pennsylvania, western New York, and western Maryland, UPMC has invested in cutting-edge CT scanners.

  • Aquilion ONE dynamic volume 640-slice CT
  • Aquilion Prime 80-slice and 64-slice CT
  • Revolution Apex
  • Revolution EVO
  • Revolution Frontier
  • Revolution HD

How Do I Prep for My CT Scan?

There are two types of CT scans. Those done without contrast and those done with contrast.

Your instructions to prepare will depend on the type of CT scan you're having.

CT scan without contrast

You don't need to do anything to get ready for a CT scan without contrast dye.

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you can take medication and eat as you normally would.

CT scan with contrast

You may need to follow special instructions if you have a fast or oral contrast CT scan. Tell your doctor if you've ever had a reaction to an x-ray dye or a topical antiseptic iodine, such as betadine. If you have, you'll have to take medicine 13 hours before your test.

Arrival times for your CT scan will vary depending on the location of your appointment. Ask your doctor if you need to arrive 1 or 2 hours before your scheduled appointment.

Other instructions to prep for your CT scan with contrast

  • Have blood tests a few days before your CT scan if your doctor ordered them.
  • Do not eat or drink for 4 hours before your CT scan.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes without zippers, metal buttons, or snaps.
  • If you plan to receive any sedation, arrange for someone to drive you home after your scan.
  • You can expect to resume your normal activities on the same day as your test.

Your CT Scan: What to Expect

CT scanning takes less than 30 minutes in most cases.

Some tests are shorter or longer. It depends on how many areas we need to scan and the CT scanner we use.

CT scans using contrast dye may take longer, but not all do. Before your CT scan

  • If you're pregnant or think you might be, it's vital that you tell your imaging tech before your CT scan starts. Radiation exposure can be harmful to an unborn baby.
  • The tech will ask you questions about your health and any past surgeries.
  • You'll also have a chance to ask any questions about the test.
  • You'll put on a hospital gown and take off any jewelry or metal.

If you're having a CT with contrast, we'll give it to you either by:

  • A liquid to drink.
  • An IV in your arm.
  • An enema.

The IV contrast may give you a brief sensation that moves up your

arm and cause:

  • A warm, flushed feeling.
  • Nausea.

This is normal, but you should tell the tech about these or other reactions.

Tell the doctor or tech right away if you have:

  • Nausea for more than a few minutes.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Itchiness.
  • Sneezing.

During your CT scan

The CT scanner has a large ring, like an upright donut. A narrow table moves through the center hole. The imaging tech will:

  • Help you onto the table where you'll lie flat and need to stay still for your CT scan.
  • Go into a room behind a large window to start the test.
  • You'll hear whirring sounds, and the table will move.
  • Use an intercom to ask you to hold your breath for a short time and give you other directions.
  • You can talk to the tech as well. Help you off the table after the test.

After Your CT Scan

If you:

  • Had a change in diet before the scan, you may resume your normal diet.
  • Received contrast dye, drink lots of water or other non-alcoholic fluids throughout the day to flush it out of your body.
  • Can't drink fluids, we'll give you an IV to help flush out the contrast dye.
  • Have diarrhea for more than a day, call your doctor.

Your CT scan results

A radiologist studies your CT scans and sends the results to your doctor via our state-of-the-art computer system.

You can also sign in to your UPMC patient portal account to see your results.

Call your doctor if you have any questions.