Mercy Medical Center North Iowa

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

May I take my medications before a CT scan?
Yes, please take your medications as needed before your CT scan unless otherwise instructed by your doctor/provider.

How long will it take to do the CT scan?
Expect the exam to last no longer than an hour, depending on the preparations needed and whether it includes the use of a contrast medium. Depending on the type of exam you will receive, the length of the actual procedure will typically be between 10 and 45 minutes. A few involved CT examinations take longer than 45 minutes.

Will the radiation that I receive from the CT scan hurt me?
CT imaging is considered a safe examination. Radiation safety is a high priority at Mercy Medical Center - North Iowa and the CT scanners utilize dose reduction technology. During the CT scan, you’re briefly exposed to radiation. In general, the diagnostic benefit of a CT scan outweighs the risk of radiation exposure.

What will I experience before, during and after the procedure?
During the CT scan, you lie on a narrow table that slides through the opening of the scanner. You most likely will lie on your back, but it depends on the area to be scanned. Pillows and cushions may help with your comfort and position. During a CT scan of the head, the table may be fitted with a special cradle that holds your head still.

If your exam involves the use of an intravenous contrast solution, then an IV site must be obtained before the scan. You may feel a brief sensation of warmth during the injection of the contrast solution. Following the CT scan you’ll likely be told to drink plenty of fluids to help your kidneys remove the intravenous solution from your body.

If you are having a CT scan of your abdomen and/or pelvis you may need to drink an oral contrast solution for several hours before the scan to help outline your bowel for the scan. Some people experience diarrhea following the ingestion of the oral contrast solution. During the scan, you also may receive a rectal contrast solution through an enema to help highlight your lower gastrointestinal region. This may make you feel a sense of fullness or cramping.

After the CT scan you can return to your normal routine.

Can I be allergic to the intravenous contrast solution?
Although rare, the contrast medium involved in a CT scan poses a slight risk of an allergic reaction. Most reactions are mild and result in hives or itchiness. In rare instances, an allergic reaction can be serious and potentially life-threatening. If you experience hives, itchiness or swelling in your throat during or after your CT exam, immediately tell your technologist or doctor. If you have had a prior reaction to contrast media, there’s an increased risk of a reaction to the contrast medium.

If you’ve had a reaction to the intravenous contrast medium in the past and you need to have the medium again, please inform your doctor. Also, be sure to let your doctor know if you have any kidney problems.

Will I need someone to drive for me after the CT scan?
No, the CT scan will not affect your ability to drive.

Can I move while I am in the CT scanner?
You should not move when you are on the CT table and the images are being acquired. It is important that you not move the body part being imaged until the entire CT exam is complete. Some exams require you to hold your breath for a short period of time. This eliminates blurring in the image caused by breathing or other motion.

May I eat or drink anything I want before my CT scan?
If the test is scheduled using the intravenous solution, you may not eat or drink anything besides water or oral contrast (if applicable) for 4 hours prior to the CT scan time. 

 If the test is scheduled without the intravenous solution, then there are no restrictions.

Will I need to drink anything for my abdominal and/or pelvic CT scan?
No, if only checking the aorta or for a kidney stone.

Yes, if the bowel needs to be highlighted on the scan. You will be given a solution (oral contrast) to drink over a period of time prior to your scan.

Will I need a blood test before I have my CT scan?
Yes, if your CT scan is scheduled using the intravenous solution, then you will need a BUN/Creatinine blood test within 30 days of your scheduled CT scan if you are over the age of 18.