CT Scans Explained: Duration, Radiation Exposure, & More

CT scan, what is a CT scan, how does a CT scan work, how long does a CT scan last, will I be exposed to radiation during my CT scan, CT scan radiation, where can I book my CT scan, BICRAD, BICRAD radiology

Your doctor may have recommended you receive a CT scan for a number of different reasons including to detect joint issues, cancerous masses, locate a tumor, or to guide treatment methods such as biopsies and surgery. Below, we will discuss everything you need to know about your CT scan before, during, and after your appointment.

What is a CT scan?

A computed tomography scan (also known as a CT or CAT scan) is an imaging method that allows doctors and radiologists to create detailed images of the inside of your body using a combination of X-rays and a computer. CT scans allow pictures of your organs, bones, and other tissues to be taken. Although CT scans utilize X-ray technology, they show more detail than a routine X-ray would and are instrumental in diagnosing a variety of conditions.

How does a CT scan work?

CT scans use X-ray beams to circle around one part of your body, providing a group of pictures at different angles. A computer uses this information to create a cross-sectional image. The computer stacks these scans one on top of the other to create a detailed picture of the affected area. During the test, you’ll lie on a table inside a large, doughnut-shaped CT machine. As the table slowly moves through the scanner, the X-rays rotate around your body. 

How long does a CT scan last?

CT scan duration depends on the area of the body being scanned as well as what your radiologist is looking to diagnose. On average, the scan should take around 30 minutes, if no contrast dye is needed.

Will I be exposed to radiation during my CT scan?

Yes, you will be exposed to some radiation during a CT scan, but the amount is minimal. For example, the amount of radiation you are exposed to during a typical chest CT is comparable to the annual amount of natural radiation exposure from radon gas that the average american is exposed to within their home each year. The chances of the radiation from your CT causing cancer is very, very small, and the risk of CT scan radiation is well worth the risk since it may allow you to diagnose and treat a life-threatening illness that would’ve otherwise gone undetected.

Where can I book my CT scan?

If you live in the Bay area and need to have a CT scan, you can schedule an appointment at a BICRAD location near you.