What is an enhanced CT scan?

An enhanced computed tomography (CT) scan takes X-ray images of the body after a patient has had an imaging agent, sometimes called a contrast agent or dye, injected into their veins to enhance areas a doctor chooses to see. The anatomical images are viewed on a computer that uses a mathematical program to build 3-D images from the collected data. Different agents are used for different scans. They can sometimes be taken orally or rectally, depending on the area of ​​the body being scanned. Imaging agents are considered safe, but on some occasions the patient may experience a negative reaction, although this is rare.

An intravenous catheter is placed in the patient's arm when performing an enhanced CT scan, and the imaging agent is introduced a few minutes before it is placed inside the scanner. Patients often report feeling a slight flushing sensation as the agent begins to flow through their veins. Sometimes they may feel a little nauseous, although this passes quickly. Patients are usually asked not to eat for at least four hours before an enhanced CT because of this. People with a history of asthma, heart disease, or kidney disease are at higher risk of allergic reactions during the procedure.

The various types of CT scans include scans of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, lungs, esophagus, internal organs, and brain. Barium sulfate is generally used when the agent is administered orally. Iodine-based dye is used when the agent is injected into the vein. Another scanning method used to contrast and diagnose brain abnormalities is xenon computed tomography. This procedure requires the patient to inhale xenon gas during the CT scan and can also help medical staff assess blood flow in the brain after a traumatic head injury.

Diagnostic medicine was transformed with the invention of computed tomography. Early versions of the machine could produce images that were 100 times more detailed than normal X-rays. Now, the highly sensitive detectors record X-rays that spin around the inside of the scanner at a speed of one revolution per second. With enhanced CT imaging, doctors can see the finest detail in muscles and soft tissues. It has also helped with procedures such as radiation therapy, allowing doctors to measure the amount of radiation needed in correlation to the size and consistency of cancerous tumors.

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