Skip to Content

Cranium Chest And Spine Computerized Axial Tomography

What you should know

A computed axial tomography scan is also called a CT scan, or CAT scan. A CT scan uses x-rays to take pictures of bones, tissues, and blood vessels in your cranium (skull), chest, and spine.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • The contrast used in a CT scan may cause a rash, itching, or trouble breathing. If you have diabetes, your risk for kidney damage may increase if contrast dye is used. If you are pregnant, a CT scan may be harmful to your unborn baby. The radiation from a CT scan may damage your eyes, or increase your risk for cancer. A CT scan may not show some medical problems.
  • If you do not have a CT scan, your caregiver may not find or learn about your condition, and it may get worse. Without the scan, caregivers may not know if treatments are working.

Getting Ready

Before your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.
  • Ask caregivers if you should have someone drive you home after your CT scan.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Tell your caregiver if you know or think you might be pregnant.

The night before your procedure:

Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your procedure:

  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • You will be asked to remove any objects that contain metal, such as jewelry, that may interfere with the pictures.
  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • You may need an injection of a contrast dye to help caregivers see blood vessels or tissue more clearly. Tell your caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. You may be given medicine to help prevent a reaction to the dye.


What will happen:

  • Your caregiver will have you lie on a narrow table. Your head may be held still with straps on your forehead and chin. Caregivers may monitor your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure during the scan. If you are getting contrast dye, pictures may be taken before and after the dye is given. The CT scan table will be moved into the hole in the middle of the machine. You will hear clicking sounds as the machine moves and takes pictures.

  • You will need to lie still during the CT scan. Caregivers may tell you to hold your breath or avoid swallowing for a few seconds during the scan. When the scan is done, the table will move out of the machine.

After your procedure:

Caregivers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. When your caregiver sees that you are okay, you will be able to go home or be taken to your hospital room.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your procedure.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • Your symptoms, such as headaches or trouble breathing, get worse.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.