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A computerised tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays and a computer to capture highly detailed images of the inside of your body
A CT scan can be used to diagnose a wide variety of conditions and injuries. It can help your doctor both to decide what treatment is right for you, and later to see how well that treatment is working.
You might also have heard of an MRI scanner, which is also used to produce detailed images of the inside of your body. Unlike an MRI machine, a CT scanner is not an enclosed tube that surrounds your body. It is a large, donut-shaped ring that rotates around your body.
During the scan, you will lie on your back on a bed that passes through the scanner, and the ring will rotate around a small section of your body as you pass through it. You will be asked to breathe in, breathe out, or hold your breath at certain moments during the scan.
A CT scanner is operated by a radiographer, which is a healthcare professional who is specially trained in operating medical equipment like X-Ray machines and MRI scanners. The results will then be interpreted by your radiologist, a doctor, who will use the scans to help diagnose your condition. They might also be involved in building your treatment plan, but this depends on your individual circumstances.
A CT scan can be used to look at most areas of the body, meaning it can help diagnose a massive range of injuries and conditions. It can also assess the extent or progress of a wide variety of symptoms and conditions. Your doctor might recommend you have a CT scan if you have symptoms of any of the following conditions, and they want to investigate further:
Symptoms include unexplained weight loss, abnormal bleeding, and abdominal pain.
Symptoms include numbness or weakness in your legs, reduced mobility, and thickened toenails.
Symptoms include dizziness, loss of memory, and sickness.
Symptoms include sudden confusion, paralysis of one side of your body, and blurred vision.
Symptoms include swelling, severe pain, and stiffness in your joint.
Symptoms include tingling and numbness in the affected area, and sometimes an inability to feel pain or temperature in the affected area.
Your doctor might also recommend a CT scan to:
Unlike traditional X-ray imaging, CT scans can provide images of both your bones and your soft tissues. Soft tissues connect and support your internal organs. They include your muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. Detailed images of your soft tissues can help diagnose a range of conditions and injuries across your body.
Both MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans and CT scans are painless and relatively fast procedures that produce detailed images of the inside of your body to diagnose a range of conditions. But MRI scanners are an enclosed tube-like machine, which can make for an unsettling experience for people with claustrophobia.
CT scanners do not surround your entire body at once but rotate around small parts of your body as you pass through it, so you shouldn’t feel claustrophobic or enclosed at any point.
While an X-Ray typically takes an image of a specific part of your body, a CT scanner can take multiple images across multiple sections of your body as it rotates. It covers large areas of your body that a smaller machine could not. This is a useful way of understanding where your symptoms originate from and targeting localised conditions and injuries across your body.
A CT scan can check for a variety of conditions, including tumours, abnormal bleeding, swelling, and head injuries. Because it is extensive and covers large areas of your body at once, a CT scan is more likely than other testing methods to detect underlying issues in their early stages across your body. This can help you find the right treatment quickly and efficiently.
It might be part of your treatment plan to check the effectiveness of ongoing treatment at various stages throughout your journey with us. In other cases, a CT might be recommended if treatment has not helped to manage your condition and your doctors want to see why.
If you do need a CT scan to check the effectiveness of treatment for an already diagnosed condition, your radiologist will organise this for you.
To book an initial consultation, you normally need a referral letter. You can get this letter from your local GP, or from one of our private GPs at Circle Health Group. If you want more information on this process, just give us a call on 0141 300 5009 and one of our friendly advisors will guide you through the process.
The type of consultant you will meet with depends on your symptoms. For example, if you have joint pain, you will meet with an orthopaedic consultant – also known as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon. If you are experiencing neurological symptoms, such as dizziness, numbness, and confusion, you will meet with a consultant neurologist. You don’t need to worry about working out which is the right specialist for you; it will all be detailed in your referral letter.
If your consultant confirms you need a CT scan to investigate your symptoms further, they will book one for you. This will most likely be done onsite at the same hospital where you had your consultation, and you should be able to choose a date and time that suits you. Your consultant will know exactly how quickly you need to have a CT scan and they’ll make sure you get an appointment as soon as is necessary, meaning you don’t have to worry about your symptoms getting worse while you wait.
They will want to know how these symptoms impact your everyday life, how often they occur, and whether you have tried treatment options for them already. They will also ask about existing medical conditions you suffer from and how these affect your daily life.
To assess your symptoms and make an accurate diagnosis, your consultant will gently carry out a physical examination of the affected area(s) of your body. If your consultant decides that you need a CT scan to investigate your symptoms further, they will share more information about the process with you, as well as booking the scan for you.
All our consultants, as well as the multidisciplinary teams they work alongside, are committed to keeping you informed and comfortable throughout your treatment with us.
We will never go ahead with any stage in your treatment journey, including any scan you might need, until we’re confident that you know what to expect and that you are comfortable with all decisions made.
The price of CT scanning across our network of 50+ hospitals ranges from around £300 to £1,200.
The cost of private CT scanning at our hospitals can be paid through your private medical insurance or using our flexible payment plans, or you can simply choose to pay in full at the time. For further information about CT scan prices, give us a call.
During the scan, you will lie on your back on a bed that passes into the scanner. As you pass through the scanner, different parts of your body will be scanned as the ring rotates around you. As the scanner rotates, the X-ray machine sends thin beams of x-rays through your body, which are detected by the X-ray detectors.
Unlike an MRI scanner, in which you are fully enclosed, the machine does not surround your whole body. You may be asked to breathe in, breathe out, or hold your breath at certain moments during the scan.
You will also need to lie very still while each picture is taken to avoid the images being blurred. The machine is quiet and should take only a few moments to scan your whole body.
Your radiographer will control the machine using a computer in a different room, but you’ll be able to talk to them through an intercom, and they will be able to see you on a television monitor and through a glass window.
You can stop the scan at any minute by asking on the intercom, and you can talk to your radiographer at any time you like during the process.
The scan lasts for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. After this, your radiologist will help you off the scanner bed, and you’ll be free to leave the room and get changed.
A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off. It can lead to permanent brain injury and disability if not treated quickly. There are various types of strokes, including an ischemic stroke (this happens when the artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to your brain becomes blocked) and a hemorrhagic stroke (this happens when an artery in your brain ruptures). Strokes are often treated with medication to prevent and dissolve blood clots and reduce your blood pressure. A CT scan is a highly effective way of showing the kind of stroke you have suffered, helping your doctor determine the best treatment for you.
Symptoms of a disease of your internal organs differ depending on which organ is affected. For example, symptoms of disease of the lungs include blood when coughing and persistent breathlessness, whereas symptoms of disease of the heart include severe chest tightness and dizziness.
It is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor, who can assess your condition and provide an accurate diagnosis alongside a tailored treatment plan.
Symptoms of a tumour differ depending on the type of the tumour you have and where it is located. It is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor, who can provide you with the right information and diagnose your tumour.
Before your scan, your radiologist will explain the process in detail so that you know what to expect. Remember, you can speak to your radiographer through an intercom at any point throughout the scan, and they will be able to see you at all times on a television monitor. You are not alone throughout the process of having a CT scan, and you can stop the scan at any point, should you wish.
In preparation for the scan, you must remove any metal objects from your body. This is because the CT scanner produces strong magnetic fields, and metal objects inside the scanner can interact with the magnetism, causing complications during the scan and interfering with the quality of the images taken. This includes:
You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and place your items in a locker before the scan is performed.
Some scans involve an injection of contrast dyes into your arm to make certain soft tissues and blood vessels show up clearly in the images. During this part of the process, a cannula (a thin plastic tube) will be inserted into a vein in your arm, which will inject contrast dye during the scan. Your nurse might put some anaesthetic cream or spray onto your skin to numb the area of your arm before inserting the cannula. This should not be painful and does not take long to insert. The cannula will be removed after your scan.
A CT scan is a painless procedure, so you will not need general anaesthetic (you do not feel pain when under anaesthesia).
You will be asked to fill out a safety questionnaire ahead of your appointment. This is so that your radiographer and radiologist have a good understanding of your general health and medical history. It will also highlight whether you have any metallic implants that might interfere with the results of your scan.
If you do have this, you might still be able to have a CT scan, but it’s important to make your radiologist and radiographer aware of this, so they can carry out your scan safely. Some examples of metallic implants include:
As mentioned above, you will be asked to fill out a safety questionnaire ahead of your appointment, so your radiographer and radiologist will be aware if you have any metallic implants that might interfere with your scan.
This depends on your reason for having a CT scan. In some cases, your radiologist will be able to interpret and let you know your results on the same day as your scan. In other cases, you will receive your results within one week.
To speak with a member of our advisory team about private CT scanning at any of our hospitals, call us on 0141 300 5009.
A CT scan can be used in many ways. It can quickly and accurately diagnose conditions including organ disease and brain injury. It can guide further treatment by determining whether a treatment is working, and it can help your doctor monitor the progression of certain conditions, such as cancer.
CT scans typically take between 10 and 20 minutes. This time varies from person to person, depending on how large the area being scanned is.
CT scans and MRI scans have similar functions, but they produce detailed images of inside your body in different ways. A CT scan uses X-rays, while an MRI scan uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves. They are both used to diagnose and monitor a range of conditions. The key differences between the two include:
Like any medical procedure, CT scanning carries a small risk.
You will be exposed to radiation during the scan, but this is an extremely low amount, and not enough to be considered dangerous.
In some cases, a contrast agent is used to help get clearer pictures, and some people are sensitive to this and develop an allergic reaction. However, all contrast agents are FDA-approved and safe.
The procedure is painless. You cannot feel the images being taken or the machine rotating around you. The machine is also quiet, so you will not feel or hear any vibrations as the images are taken.
You should be able to eat, drink and take any medication as usual on the day of your scan, unless your consultant says otherwise.
Yes, in some cases. CT scans can determine if a tumour exists, and if it is benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). CT scans can also show if cancer is spreading to other areas of your body.
You might be able to have a friend or family member in the room with you for moral support, if needed. Please ask your consultant about whether this is possible.
A CT scan is usually carried out as an outpatient procedure, which means you won't need to stay in hospital overnight. After the scan, you can return home and begin your normal activities immediately after. If you have had a sedative for the scan, you will need to arrange for a friend or family member to drive you home from hospital, but after 24 hours the sedative effects will have worn off and you can drive again.