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Whole-body CT Scan: A Technical Marvel in the Medical World

A radiographer is operating a CT scanner for a female patient.
Anderson Team
May 15, 2023
Est. Reading: 5 minutes

The whole-body CT scan is truly a blessing in the new age of medicine. The technology allows us to look inside the human body without making the slightest incision or causing any pain.

The main aim of using Computed Tomography or CT scan to screen the whole body from the chin to below the hips is to detect signs of illnesses that have not yet manifested as symptoms or health risk factors. The scanning device uses X-ray imaging to produce cross-sectional images of the internal organs, allowing doctors to diagnose cancer, cardiac diseases, etc.

Let’s get deeper into the details of the CT scan.

How Do CT Scans Work?

The Computerised Tomography scan is a wonder machine combining a series of X-ray images from various angles covering your entire body. These images are processed to create cross-sectional images (also called slices) of the internal body parts like bones, blood vessels and bodily tissues. CT scan images are more detailed and provide more in-depth insights about the issues in the body than an X-ray or ultrasound scan.

What Happens During a CT Scan?

Before a CT scan, some people are given a contrast medium, a special dye injected into a vein to create more well-defined images of specific internal organs or parts. The contrast medium may also be given as a liquid that the person swallows before the scan.

Before the procedure, you will be asked to lie on your back on a long bed-like table. A medical assistant will position you appropriately in order to obtain the best and most accurate image of the body part being scanned. You will also be instructed to lie still because even the slightest movement can distort the images.

Once you are set, the bed slides into a doughnut-shaped scanner which proceeds to take pictures of the affected area. The scanner rotates and takes pictures of a thin slice of the organ or tissue from various angles. All the images are saved on a computer. When the procedure is over, the table slides out of the scanner. Your doctor may recommend drinking plenty of water to flush out the contrast medium from your systems. Your doctor may ask you to collect your reports at a specific time after the procedure.

When Will You Need a CT Scan?

Although there are several other diagnostic tests to detect underlying diseases, your doctor may specifically ask you to take a CT scan to detect or diagnose:

  • Body infections.
  • Blood clots.
  • Bleeding from internal injuries.
  • Minor and major fractures.
  • Tumours and bone and muscle disorders.
  • Cancer, cardiac illnesses, lung, and liver disorders.
  • Health status after surgery or biopsy.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of radiation therapy.
  • Bowel disorders or intestinal blockages.
  • Brain injuries and spinal cord diseases.

While disease detection and identification are the primary purposes of a full body CT scan screening, this diagnostic procedure holds more benefits than you know.

Advantages of CT Scans in the Medical World

CT scans allow doctors to detect internal issues that are otherwise impossible to identify with physical examinations. For example, if a patient comes into the emergency room with internal bleeding, a quick CT scan will identify the source of the bleeding, giving doctors a better chance to determine the best course of treatment. The CT scan images show surgeons where exactly to operate and arrest the bleeding. This information collected from a few minutes of scanning plays a massive role in saving the lives of millions of patients.

The CT scan allows for more effective medical management by:

  • Reducing the need for complex, invasive surgeries.
  • Determining when and if surgeries are necessary.
  • Improving diagnosis of cancer and the chances for better treatment.
  • Allowing patients to receive the appropriate care for their illnesses.
  • Shortening hospital stays.
  • Assisting the treatment of strokes, cardiac diseases and major injuries.

Without doubt, the CT scan is a technical marvel. At this juncture, it is also important to highlight that these scans can sometimes be disadvantageous.

Limitations of the CT Scan: Why it is Not the End-All-Be-All

The use of a CT scan in the medical world is limited in two ways:

1. When people receive a clean bill of health after a CT scan, it leaves them with a false sense of security about their health. Sometimes, people tend to feel overconfident and stay away from adopting healthier lifestyles or having regular medical checkups.

2. When CT scan results identify suspicious growths or abnormalities, the person may be subjected to invasive and sometimes unnecessary procedures. Studies show that at least 80% of abnormalities found through CT scans turn out to be benign and harmless. These include non-cancerous tumours, scar tissues, and benign nodules.

3. The CT scan is yet to be fully evaluated as a general screening tool, and governmental organisations are yet to endorse full-body screening with CT scans. Hence, the procedure lacks established protocols.

Are there any risks associated with CT scans? While they are generally safe, the device and the procedure are not entirely risk-free.

3 Hazards of Using CT Scans

1. Risk of radiation

During a CT scan, you are briefly exposed to ionising radiation in very minuscule doses that are usually deemed safe. However, higher doses of radiation can increase the potential risk of cancer.

2. Risk to foetuses

Exposing unborn babies to radiation emitted from CT scans is not advisable, although it is unlikely to injure the baby. Hence, doctors may not advise CT scans for pregnant women. They may have to opt for MRI or ultrasound scans if the need arises.

Also Read: The Biopsy Guidebook: Types, Why You Need It & What to Expect

3. Reaction of contrast medium

The contrast medium is known to cause allergic reactions, although very rarely. The person may experience mind rashness or itchiness after the medium is administered through IV or orally.

Preparing Yourself For a CT Scan: Medical Issues to Consider

A medical assistant or doctor will give you specific instructions before arriving at the CT scan centre for your appointment. You may be asked to avoid eating or drinking anything a few hours before the procedure.

It is also important to understand that the CT scan device may not be suitable for very large and obese persons. In such cases, the doctor may suggest some other diagnostic test.

If your doctor suggests a CT scan, you must inform them if you are:

  • Pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
  • Having a fear of going into constricted spaces. If that’s the case, the doctor will give you a mild sedative before the procedure.
  • Allergic, diabetic, or have renal or thyroid conditions.
  • Having implanted devices like pacemakers, medication pumps, and metal objects in your body.

Choose a Reliable CT Scan Centre For Your Diagnostic Test

The CT scan has immense benefits as a diagnostic tool. However, unless recommended by a doctor, there is no need for whole-body CT screening. Although the low radiation dosage from a single procedure does not cause any potential harm, the risk of radiation exposure and allergic reactions cannot be ignored.

The CT scan is one of the many diagnostic tools used in comprehensive healthcare and should be used in conjunction with regular checkups. Anderson Diagnostics is a well-established CT scan centre in Chennai offering reliable services. Visit our centre or call us to learn more about full-body CT scans.

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