• CT Scan of the Abdomen

    (Abdominal CT)


    A CT scan is a type of x-ray. It uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body. In this case, images of the abdomen are taken.
    CT Scan at Kidneys
    kidney CT scan
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Reasons for Test

    A CT scan is done to study the organs and tissue in your abdomen. Your doctor will look for signs of:
    • Injury
    • Tumors
    • Infections
    • Other diseases
    Your doctor may recommend an abdominal CT scan if you have the following symptoms:
    • Abdominal pain
    • Bowel changes
    • Blood in urine or stool
    • Urinary difficulties
    • Jaundice (yellow skin)
    • Weight loss
    • Unexplained fever
    • Abdominal injury
    • Fluid buildup in the abdomen

    Possible Complications

    Sometimes a chemical called "contrast" is used to help improve the pictures. Complications with contrast are rare. Possible complications with contrast include:
    Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the test.
    A CT scan may not be advised if you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor.

    What to Expect

    Prior to Test

    Your doctor may tell you to:
    • Avoid eating or drinking anything for four hours before the test if contrast will be used.
    • Remove any metal objects (for example, jewelry, hearing aids, or dentures).

    Description of the Test

    Sometimes contrast is necessary. It helps make certain organs and tissue easier to see in pictures. It is often given by mouth in a drink. Other times, it will be injected into a vein.
    You will be positioned on a special moving table. The table will move slowly through the CT scanner. You will need to stay still during the entire test. As the scanner takes pictures, you will hear humming and clicking. The technician will ask you to hold your breath at certain points. This will help get a clear picture. You will be able to talk to the technician with an intercom.

    After Test

    If you had contrast, you may be told to drink extra fluid. This will flush the contrast from your body.

    How Long Will It Take?

    About 10-60 minutes

    Will It Hurt?

    You may feel flushed if you received contrast. You may notice a salty or metallic taste in your mouth. You may also feel nauseated.


    The CT images will be sent to a radiologist who will analyze them. Your doctor will receive the results and discuss them with you.

    Call Your Doctor

    If you are given contrast, call your doctor if any of the following occurs after the test:
    • Hives
    • Itching
    • Nausea
    • Swollen, itchy eyes
    • Tightness of throat
    • Difficulty breathing
    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


    American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org

    Radiological Society of North America http://www.radiologyinfo.org


    Canadian Association of Radiologists http://www.car.ca

    Canadian Radiation Protection Association http://www.crpa-acrp.ca


    CT scan. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ct-scan/MY00309. Accessed October 15, 2007.

    Rydberg J, Buckwalter KA, et al. Multisection CT: scanning techniques and clinical applications. Radiographics. 2000; 20:1787.

    Zaret BL. Yale University School of Medicine Patient's Guide to Medical Tests. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin; 1997.

    Revision Information

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