What is a CT scan of the brain?
A CT scan provides a detailed image of the brain tissue and structures that is much better than standard X-rays of the head. This helps provide more data related to injuries and diseases of the brain. It is a noninvasive imaging procedure that uses special X-ray measurements to produce images of the brain that are either axial or horizontal.
The procedure can be done with or without "contrast." Contrast is a substance taken by mouth or injected intravenously that makes the particular organ or tissue being studied seen more clearly.
Why would I get a CT scan of the brain?
A brain CT may be performed to aid in the diagnosis of tumors and other lesions like injuries, infections, and bleeding. It is also useful in detecting strokes and evaluating the effects of treatments on tumors.
What happens during a CT scan of the brain?
Brain CT scan involves the following steps:
- If the procedure is done with contrast, an IV line will be started in the arm for the injection of the contrast media. Contrast also can be given orally. You will be given a liquid contrast preparation to swallow.
- You will lie on a table that slides into a large, circular opening of the scanning machine.
- X-rays will pass through the body as the scanner begins to rotate around you.
- The X-rays absorbed by the body's tissues will be detected by the scanner and transmitted to the computer. The computer will transform the information into an image to be interpreted by the radiologist.
- If contrast media is used for your procedure, you may feel some effects when the media is injected into the IV line. These effects include a flushing sensation, a salty or metallic taste in your mouth, or nausea and vomiting. These effects last for a few moments.
What to expect after the procedure?
You will be monitored for a few hours to check for any side effects if contrast media was injected during the procedure.
If you notice any swelling or pain at the IV site following the procedure, you should notify your physician as this could be an infection or other type of reaction.
Otherwise, there is no special type of care required after a CT of the brain. Most patients are can resume their usual diet and activities.
CT images are stored as electronic data files and are usually reviewed on a computer screen. A radiologist interprets these images and sends a report to your doctor.
It is recommended to follow up with a neurologist, a doctor who treats disorders affecting the brain and spinal cord, in case of any concerning findings.
Johns Hopkins: Computed Tomography (CT or CAT) Scan of the Brain