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Pelvic And Abdominal Computerized Axial Tomography

What is a pelvic or abdominal computerized axial tomography scan?

  • A computerized axial tomography scan is also called a CT scan or a CAT scan. A pelvic CT scan takes pictures of your pelvis (the area between your hips). An abdominal CT takes pictures of your abdomen. A CT scan uses x-rays to look at bones, muscles, body organs, and blood vessels. Each picture, also called a slice, shows a few layers of your body tissue on a computer or TV-like screen. Your caregiver may do a CT scan of your abdomen and your pelvis at the same time.
    Computerized Axial Tomography Scan
  • A CT scan may help your caregiver find out about a medical problem or disease. Your caregiver may use your CT results to help plan treatment, which may help you heal. Your caregiver also may use a CT scan to show problems caused by your condition, disease, or treatment.

Why may I need a CT scan of my pelvis or abdomen?

  • Your caregiver may use a CT to look for causes of pain in your pelvis or abdomen. A CT scan may show if you have a broken bone, such as your hip. Your caregiver may do a CT scan to look for conditions such as cancer or liver disease. A CT may show an infection in an organ, such as your pancreas or appendix. A CT scan also may show if you have stones in organs such as your gallbladder, kidney, or bladder. If you are female, a CT scan may show if you problems with your reproductive organs, such as your uterus. Reproductive organs are the parts of your body that help you make a baby.
  • If you have a disease or medical problem, your caregiver may do a CT scan to see if your condition has changed. Your caregiver may use a CT scan to plan or guide the treatment for your problem. He also may use a CT scan to see if your treatment is working. A CT scan also may show if your disease or treatment is causing new medical problems, such as an infection or pain.

What happens during a pelvic and abdominal CT scan?

  • Your caregiver will ask you to lie on your back on the table. Your caregiver may put an intravenous (IV) tube into your vein to give you medicine or liquids. Your caregiver may give you contrast before your CT scan. Contrast is a dye that helps the pictures show up on your CT scan. If contrast will be used for your CT scan, it may be given through your IV or as a drink. Your caregiver also may give your contrast through your nose or rectum (anus).
  • You must lie still during your CT scan. You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds as pictures are taken. The CT table will move through the hole in the middle of the machine. You will hear clicking sounds as the machine takes pictures. If you have contrast, pictures may be taken before and after the contrast is given. When the CT scan is finished, the table will move out of the hole in the middle of the machine.

What other types of pelvic or abdominal CT scans may I need?

CT angiography helps your caregiver see if you have a disease or another problem with your blood vessels. Virtual colonoscopy may show tumors (growths), blockages, or cancer in your colon (large bowel). With virtual cystoscopy, your caregiver may see problems with organs in your urinary system, such as your bladder. If you are male, a cytoscopy may show problems with your prostate. The prostate is an organ in the male reproductive system. Ask your caregiver for more information about these types of CT scans.

Who may not be able to have a pelvic and abdominal CT scan?

If you have already had an allergic reaction to contrast, you will not be able to have contrast again. If you are female, tell your caregiver if you think or know that you are pregnant. You also may not be able to have a CT scan if you have any of the following:

  • Asthma (a disease where your airways become narrow and it becomes hard to breathe).
  • Allergies, including allergies to iodine or shellfish (crab, lobster, or shrimp).
  • Anxiety (feeling very worried), such as feeling scared when in a small space.
  • Diabetes (high blood sugar).
  • Heart disease.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Pacemaker or other metal objects in your body.

What are the risks of having a pelvic and abdominal CT scan?

  • A CT scan may not show all of the medical problems in your pelvis or abdomen. The contrast used in a CT scan may cause itching, a rash, or a headache. You may feel nauseous (sick to your stomach) or vomit (throw up). If you have diabetes, your risk of having kidney damage will increase if contrast is used. If you are female and pregnant, a CT scan may cause problems with your unborn baby. You may have an allergy to the contrast, which may cause trouble breathing. X-rays from the CT scan may damage organs in your body and may increase your risk of cancer. You may die from some of these problems.
  • If you do not have a CT scan, your caregiver may not be able to learn about a medical problem. Your caregiver may not know if your treatment is working. If a medical problem is not found or treated, it may get worse and you may die. Talk to your caregiver if you have questions or concerns about your CT scan or medical problems.

Where can I find support and more information?

You may feel worried or sad about the results of your CT scan. These feelings are normal. Talk to your caregiver, friends, or family about your feelings. You also may contact the following:

  • American College of Radiology
    1891 Preston White Drive
    Reston , VA 20191
    Web Address:

When should I call my caregiver?

Call your caregiver if:

  • You cannot make it to your CT scan on time.
  • You have new pain in your abdomen or pelvis.
  • You urinate very little.
  • You have new blood in your urine.
  • You have new blood in your bowel movements.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are unable to urinate.
  • You have very bad pain that does not go away, even after taking medicine to decrease it.
  • If you are female, you have new bleeding from your vagina that does not stop, even when not menstruating (having your monthly period).

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.

Further information

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

Learn more about Pelvic And Abdominal Computerized Axial Tomography

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