A CT scanner creates detailed images of the inside of your body. A series of images taken from different angles are processed that can identify the tiniest abnormalities in your bones, organs, and blood vessels.
What is a CT scanner?
A computerised tomography (CT) scanner, also called a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scanner, uses computer processing to combine data from a series of X-rays taken at different angles around your body and creates detailed images of your bones, blood vessels, internal organs, and soft tissues inside your body.
A CT scanner provides more in-depth images than conventional X-rays as it moves around your body taking pictures from many different angles whereas an X-ray takes pictures from one angle only.
What can CT scans detect?
CT scans can be performed on any part of your body. A CT scan is quick and painless and can detect many conditions including:
- bone, muscle, and joint problems – such as tumours and complex bone fractures cancer – also used to monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatment
- heart disease – uses a specialised dye to view your heart and blood vessels for artery blockages, defects or injury of your heart, blood clots in your heart chambers and tumours in or on your heart liver masses – a group of abnormal cells in your liver that may be cancerous or non-cancerous
- emphysema – chronic breathing problem where the air sacs in your lungs become damaged and stretched
- internal bleeding and injuries after an accident
- excess fluids and infections
- lung nodules – an abnormal area on your lung that may be benign or cancerous.
CT scans are carried out in hospital by radiographers as an outpatient procedure.
What is the difference between a CT scan and an MRI?
The images of CT and MRI scans can look very similar. The key difference between a CT scan and an MRI scan is that a CT scan uses radiation and MRI scans use a magnetic field.
The decision to have a CT scan or an MRI scan is based on clinical indications, cost, and your personal preference.
A CT scan is faster and less noisy than an MRI scan. A CT scanner is doughnut-shaped so you are not enclosed unlike an MRI that may be enclosed or open. A CT scan can be more comfortable for claustrophobic patients and is often chosen in emergencies.
CT scanners are less sensitive to patients moving during the scan. Patients who have metal fragments or devices may use CT scanning as there is no magnetic field. .
MRI scans are generally more expensive than a CT scan. .
An MRI scanner does not scan bone, but it is particularly effective at making images of soft tissue. .
Unlike CT scans, MRI scans do not use radiation making them safe for patients needing multiple scans, and children. .
MRIs use a type of contrast agent that has a far lower chance of causing an allergic reaction and is better for patients with a history of allergies. .
Why is a CT scan done?
There are many reasons a CT scan is done. A CT scan can help:
- diagnose bone, muscle, and joint problems - bone tumours and complex fractures
- guide procedures - surgery, biopsy and radiation therapy
- find internal injuries and bleeding – often used for patients who have had a severe accident
- detect and monitor medical conditions and diseases - cancer, heart disease, and lung masses
- monitor the effectiveness of treatment – such as cancer treatment
- identify the exact location of a tumour, infection or blood clot.
How long does a CT scan take?
The time it takes to do a CT scan depends on the type of scan required. Typically, a CT scan will take 15 to 30 minutes. If oral contrast is required, it will take 45 to 60 minutes for the contrast to move through your digestive tract before the CT scan.
What is the cost of a CT scan?
The cost of a CT scan will depend on how many body parts are to be scanned, whether contrast is required, and your Ramsay hospital of choice.
You will receive a formal quotation price following a referral from your GP or appropriate clinician. This formal quote for your CT scan will be valid for 60 days.
Ramsay is recognised by all major medical insurers. CT scans are covered by most medical insurance policies. We advise you to check with your insurance provider and obtain their written authorisation before having your CT scan.
CT scan at Ramsay Health Care
At Ramsay Health Care we offer excellent CT scanning facilities that are managed by highly experienced radiographers.
We book convenient and rapid-access CT scan appointments for our patients. With variable NHS waiting times many patients choose a private CT scan with private medical insurance or self-pay options.
Our hospitals are fully-equipped with state-of-the-art mobile CT scanning equipment to produce the highest quality images with low doses and short scanning times.
We are proud to work alongside specialist consultant radiologists who study computer-processed images and turn reports around quickly, usually within a week. If a problem is flagged from your CT scan you have access to onsite treatment and advice.
Our primary focus is to keep our patients and staff safe in our hospitals and we have meticulous procedures in place to support this.