CT Scan Explained: Duration, Radiation Exposure, & More

what is a ct scan, ct scan duration, ct scan radition

While a trip to the Doctor’s office might go smoothly sometimes, it is not uncommon to go to the Doctor’s for some type of appointment and to not figure out what’s going on and causing your symptoms. In a case where the Doctor might not have any good idea of what might be causing your injury, it might be necessary to then undergo a diagnostic imaging exam.

Say, for instance, you hurt your leg and go to the Doctor’s to tend to the injury and receive a diagnosis. The doctor might need to be able to see inside your leg in the area of the injury in order to figure out what’s going on. Such diagnostic imaging exams are commonly ordered for many, many patients regarding many different injuries and ailments. Each diagnostic imaging exam serves different purposes and can better find a diagnosis in some situations rather than others. In this article, we will discuss CT scans:

What is a CT scan?

CT scans help our radiologists at BICRAD determine a diagnosis for certain types of injuries by utilizing X-rays to provide details inside a patient’s body. By sending X-ray beams through the patient’s body to an X-ray detector on the opposite side, CT scanners help provide an internal image of the injured area as the body moves through an arc-looking structure. While the body goes through the arc-structure, the CT scanner takes many pictures of inside the body. It creates these images by comparing the strength of the x-ray beams, which are measured at about 1000 times per second.

CT scans are usually performed for better diagnosing bone injuries, and also for lung imaging, chest imaging, and cancer detection. While the nature and suspected ailment causing your symptoms will usually determine whether you will need a CT scan, or maybe another diagnostic imaging exam such as an MRI, it is not rare that you might need multiple different tests to really understand your injury.

How long do CT scans last?

One concern many patients have when they are considering undergoing a diagnostic imaging exam is the comfortability of the exam. For instance, many patients worry about the lengthy duration of MRI exams before needing one. CT scans, fortunately for patients, are considerably quicker than MRIs. Typically, the ct scan duration only lasts between 5 and 10 minutes to perform, and that includes preparation time.

In addition to the quickness of the exam, CT scans also tend to the comfortability of the patient in terms of the noise of the exam and the openness in which you are given to lay down. While it might seem normal that the exam does not come with overwhelming noises, limited space, and the pressure to lay as still as possible, such conditions often factor into other diagnostic imaging exams.

Do CT scans result in radiation exposure for the patients?

Another common concern that patients might ask about is whether CT scans emit radiation. CT scans do emit radiation with an effective radiation dose anywhere between 2 and 10 mSv. Radiation exposure in that range is similar to the amount of background radiation an average person becomes exposed to after about 5 years of normal activity. While the radiation exposure is certainly minimal, certain individuals, such as pregnant women, should be strongly advised to avoid undergoing any CT scans during their pregnancy. If you have any questions or concerns about the CT scan radiation, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor to see if you are at risk,

Are CT scans readily accessible?

CT scans are very widely available for patients’ use. Whether it’s at a private medical imaging center, or a public hospital, there will almost always be somewhere for patients to go when in need of a CT scan. Of course, where you go to get a CT scan might be limited by a few things such as doctor’s references, insurance coverage, and the patient’s financial situation.

And no, insurance will not always cover a CT scan. There are multiple reasons why they might not cover the exam, such as limits to your specific coverage plan, monthly limits in procedures, and annual spending caps. With that in mind, people might want to know how much a CT scan can cost. CT scans typically cost between $1500 and $3000, depending on the facility and their fees.

Are there any possible limitations to CT scans?

Besides financial limitations, or any other possible limitation discussed above, CT scans don’t necessarily run into any significant problems or limitations. However, CT scans can occasionally struggle to capture multiple, layered angles for more comprehensive imaging. So, in the case that a patient needs to have their symptoms examined from multiple different angles, the patient will likely need to reposition themselves to successfully capture the whole picture. While this might prove to be inconvenient for some, CT scans are advantaged due to their ability to accommodate patients with metal implants, tattoos, cardiac pacemakers, and implants. Some diagnostic imaging exams, like MRIs, cannot easily accommodate such things.