CT scans are painless and fast.

You will lie on a long narrow table that slides you into a donut-shaped machine that is open on both sides. A Velcro strap will be placed around you for safety.

When indicated, use of a contrast material could be necessary for your exam. Contrast helps to demonstrate blood vessels and differentiate tissues and organs within the body.

Contrast material can be used orally, intravenously, or rectally.

  • Orally: You could be asked to drink a liter of flavored water with a minimal amount of contrast material to enhance the digestive tract.
  • Intravenous: You could have an IV placed if it is necessary based on indication for exam. Ports can be accessed for certain exams. You can feel warm during your injection and can experience a metallic taste in your mouth.
  • Rectally: primarily with Virtual Colonography exams

A technologist will be in a separate room but can see and hear you at all times.

You may be asked to hold your breath at certain times of the image acquisition process in order to avoid blurring of images.


You will be asked to provide information to the technologist prior to your exam. This information will include:

  • Current medications
  • Possibility of pregnancy (due to use of radiation)
  • Medication allergies (prior reactions to contrast media or iodine)
  • Renal function

You could be asked to remove metal objects, such as jewelry, belts, eyeglasses, and dentures, if there is potential for interference with the area being imaged.

Some exams could require you to change into a hospital gown and/or pants.

After your exam

There will be no side effects after your CT scan. You can resume all normal activities.
You may be asked to drink plenty of water for the 24 hours post exam if you have been given IV contrast dye. This will help your kidneys filter out the contrast material from your body. You will not notice any discoloration in your urine.
A radiologist will interpret your exam and send the results to your ordering physician.

Possible Side Effects

Reactions to contrast media

Although rare, people can be allergic to contrast media (dye).
Most reactions are mild and include itchiness and or rash/hives. In rare instances, a reaction can be serious and life threatening. It is important to notify your physician and technologist of any prior reactions to dye so that preventive precautions can be considered.

  • Prior mild reactions can be pre-treated with medications to prevent a recurrence of a reaction.
  • Prior serious reactions could result in an alternative test being ordered.

Radiation Exposure

During a CT scan, you are exposed to ionizing radiation. The radiation received during a CT scan is more than an x-ray, as a CT gathers much more detailed information. The benefits from a CT scan outweigh the small risk of any long-term harm. The newer, faster machines that WVU Medicine uses are equipped with the latest technology to deliver the lowest doses in the industry.

We are committed to patient safety while keeping imaging fast and accurate.