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Private CT scan

A computerised tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays and a computer to capture highly detailed images of the inside of your body

Patient having a private CT scan (computer tomography) is comforted by a radiologist
CT scanning, sometimes referred to as a CAT scan, is a non-invasive imaging technology that uses a combination of rotating X-ray machines and computers to produce accurate, 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:

A mass in your abdomen

Symptoms include unexplained weight loss, abnormal bleeding, and abdominal pain.

Vascular disease

Symptoms include numbness or weakness in your legs, reduced mobility, and thickened toenails.

Head injuries

Symptoms include dizziness, loss of memory, and sickness.

A stroke

Symptoms include sudden confusion, paralysis of one side of your body, and blurred vision.

A soft tissue injury, for example a damaged ligament

Symptoms include swelling, severe pain, and stiffness in your joint.

Nerve damage

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:

  • Measure your blood flow
  • Check how well treatment (for various conditions) is working to monitor your recovery
  • Check how big a tumour is and whether it has spread from its primary location to a secondary location in your body

There are several benefits of having a CT scan, including:

It provides detailed images of the soft tissues inside your body

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.

It is not a claustrophobic environment

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.

It covers your entire body

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.

It can detect medical issues in their early stages

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.

CT scans check the effectiveness of ongoing treatment

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.

Before having a CT scan with Circle Health Group, you will need to have a consultation with one of our specialist consultants, who can confirm whether a CT scan is the right next step 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.

You can usually see a specialist for your initial consultation within 48 hours of booking your appointment with us. During this appointment, your consultant will make a detailed examination of your medical history, as well as asking about your current symptoms.

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 cost of your CT scan with Circle Health Group will vary depending on your circumstances, the type of CT scan you have, and your reason for having it. The more detailed and complex the scan, the higher the price. The cost of a CT scan also varies from hospital to hospital.

The price of CT scanning across our network of 50+ hospitals starts from around £350* for our simplest CT procedures, while more complex CT scans start from around £1,600.*

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.

*This is a starting price for people paying for their own treatment, depending on the type of CT scan you have and where you have it, the cost could be significantly higher. For a more accurate quote, contact your local Circle Health Group hospital directly.

A CT scanner is a large, donut-shaped ring that rotates around your body. It contains an X-ray tube and detectors on opposite sides.

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.

Your doctor might recommend you have a CT scan if y. ou have symptoms of the following conditions:

Heart problems

A CT scan of the heart, also known as a cardiac CT scan, can help us to understand your heart health. One type of heart scan is called a CT coronary angiogram, which looks at your arteries and checks for fatty deposits in them. Another type of cardiac CT scan is called a CT calcium score. This measures the areas of hardened plaques in your arteries. Both tests can be used to judge how at risk you are of heart attack.

A stroke

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.

An injury or disease of your internal organs

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.

A tumour

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.

Depending on why you are having a CT scan, you might be advised to avoid food or drink for up to four hours before the scan. This varies from person to person, though. Many people can eat, drink, and take any medication as usual before their scan, so there is no need to do anything different than usual unless your consultant asks you to.

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:

  • Watches
  • Piercings
  • Jewellery
  • Hearing aids

You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and place your items in a locker before the scan is performed.

Preparing for dye injections

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.

CT scanning is very safe and accessible to most people, but there are some cases when having a CT scan is not recommended. This is mostly if you have any metal implants or fragments in your body.

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:

  • A pacemaker: This is a small device, about the size of a matchbox, used to control an irregular heartbeat.
  • Metal plates, wires, screws, or rods: These can be surgically inserted to stabilise and support bone fractures.
  • A nerve stimulator: This is an electrical implant used to treat long-term nerve pain.
  • A cochlear implant: This is a device like a hearing aid. It is surgically inserted inside your ear.

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.

There is no recovery period after a CT scan. You can usually leave the hospital and return to normal life on the same day as the scan. 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. The sedative will wear off within 24 hours, after which you can return to normal everyday activities.

When will you get your results?

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.

The benefits of having a private CT scan reflect the benefits of private healthcare. When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can benefit from:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to fit your routine
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Support by the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to spread the cost of your care

To speak with a member of our advisory team about private CT scanning at any of our hospitals, call us on 0141 300 5009.

It is perfectly normal to feel anxious about having a CT scan. Knowing more about the process of the scan and how it works can help put your mind at ease. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about CT scans.

What is a CT scan used for?

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.

How long does a CT scan take?

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.

What is the difference between a CT scan and an MRI scan?

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:

  • CT scans use radiation, which is associated with medical complications such as infection and sickness. It is important to know the levels of radiation you are exposed to during a CT scan are extremely low, which is why this form of testing is perfectly safe to have.
  • CT scans are generally faster than MRI scans, taking between 10 and 20 minutes, while MRI scans usually take up to 90.
  • CT scans are quiet, while MRI scans are very noisy. You will be offered earplugs during an MRI scan to block out the noise.
  • CT scans are not enclosed spaces. The machine rotates around you, while an MRI scanner is a large tube-like, enclosed machine.

Are CT scans dangerous?

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.

Can you feel a CT scan?

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.

Can you eat before a CT scan?

You should be able to eat, drink and take any medication as usual on the day of your scan, unless your consultant says otherwise.

Can a CT scan detect cancer?

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.

Can people come into the room with you during your scan?

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.

What happens after a CT scan?

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.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in April 2022. Next review due April 2025.

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