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Computed Tomography (CT) - Chest

Last updated Jan. 18, 2019

Akira Ohgaki

A CT Scan of the Chest is used to diagnose various chest conditions, such as lung diseases, pneumonia, TB, lung cancer, injury to the ribs, etc.


Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • Computed Axial Tomography of Chest
  • Computerized Tomography of Chest
  • X-ray Computed Tomography of Chest 

What is Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure? (General Explanation)

  • CT (Computed Tomography) scanning, also referred to as a CAT scan, is a noninvasive test used to diagnose and treat medical conditions, by combining a special x-ray machine with computers, to produce images of the body insides
  • CT scanning provides more details of soft tissues, blood vessels, and internal organs, than a regular x-ray exam
  • A CT Scan of Chest is used to diagnose various chest conditions, such as lung diseases, pneumonia, TB, lung cancer, injury to the ribs, etc.

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

The Computed Tomography - Chest scan procedure involves the chest area.

Why is the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure Performed?

A CT Scan of Chest is performed for the following reasons:

  • To diagnose disease of the chest, creating symptoms, such as chest pain, fever, shortness of breath
  • To better evaluate abnormalities found on normal chest x-rays, or fetal ultrasound exams
  • To detect and evaluate tumors in the chest; to plan radiation therapy and assess how tumors are responding to treatment
  • In evaluating injuries in the areas of chest, including lungs, ribs, spine, and blood vessels
  • A CT Angiography (CTA) is often employed to evaluate arteries and veins in the chest
  • It can be very useful in diagnosing various lung diseases, such as bronchiectasis, interstitial lung disease, pneumonia, tuberculosis, lung cancer, or inflammation of pleura covering the lungs

What is the Equipment used? (Description of Equipment)

The equipment for a CT Scan of Chest consists of:

  • A CT scanner that appears like a big box with a hole inside
  • The examination table on which the patient lies down; the table slides into the hole during the procedure
  • X-ray tube and electronic x-ray detectors that rotates around the patient
  • Images are taken from a computer

A transducer (part of the scanner) is used to send high frequency sound waves in the body and the computer creates the images, based on the echoes of that sound returning from the patient’s body.

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

There have been no recent advances to replace the Computed Tomography - Chest procedure.

What is the Cost of Performing the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure?

The cost of a CT Scan of Chest procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the surgery/procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion prior to Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused with a sudden inflow of information regarding Chest CT scan procedure and what needs to be done.
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist in recommending another physician.
  • Also, if the procedure involves multiple steps or has many alternatives, the patient may take a second opinion to understand and choose the best one. They can also choose to approach another physician independently.

What are some Helpful Resources?

http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=chestct (accessed on 08/02/2014)

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cct/ (accessed on 08/02/2014)

Prior to Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure:

How does the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure work?

  • A CT scan is very similar to taking an x-ray. In an x-ray, radiation passes through the body and an image is recorded on photographic film. The bones appear white, air appears black, and soft tissues appear as gray patches
  • In the CT scan, electronic x-ray detectors and x-ray beams rotate (around the patient) and measure the amount of radiation absorbed
  • The x-ray beam in a CT scan follows a spiral path, as the examination table is moving through the scanner
  • A two-dimensional, cross sectional image of the body is created by a computer program, by utilizing all the data generated by the scanner. The CT scan produces a very detailed multidimensional view of the body’s interior regions
  • The CT scan produces images of the chest, in a way as can be compared to looking at a loaf of bread, by cutting the loaf into thin slices
  • With an advanced detector technology, current CT scanners can obtain multiple slices in just one rotation. Such types of CT scanners are called “multislice CT” or “multidetector CT”
  • Advanced CT scanners can scan large sections of body in a very short time (like a few seconds). They can be adjusted to reduce the radiation dose too

How is the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure Performed?

The Computed Tomography - Chest procedure is performed in the following manner:

  • During the test, the patient is asked to lay flat on their back, side, or stomach, during the examination
  • As any motion may affect the quality of examination, the patients are asked to stay still on the table; children may be given a sedation, to keep them still
  • In many exams, a contrast material is also used, which is injected through an IV, or is swallowed, or administered by enema
  • The patient is moved rapidly through the scanner.

Where is the Procedure Performed?

A CT Chest scan is performed as an outpatient procedure, at a hospital.

Who Performs the Procedure?

A CT Scan of Chest is usually done by a radiology technologist, under the supervision of a radiologist.

How long will the Procedure take?

The Computed Tomography - Chest procedure will take about 30-60 minutes.

Who interprets the Result?

The interpretation of the Computed Tomography - Chest results is done by a radiologist and results are sent to the patient’s family physician.

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

The following preparations may be needed prior to a CT - Chest scan:

  • The physician may evaluate the individual’s medical history to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the overall health status of the patient, including information related to the medications that are being currently taken
  • Do inform the medical professional if you have a history of any medical conditions, such as a heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • Do inform the medical professional about any allergies, especially related to barium or iodinated contrast material, which may be used in the procedure
  • It is advisable to wear comfortable and loose clothes. Avoid wearing any metal objects or jewelry, as it may interfere with the X-ray
  • It is highly recommended to inform your healthcare professional, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • The patient must avoid eating or drinking at least 8 hours prior to the procedure, depending on when the procedure is arranged

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

A physician will request your consent for a CT Scan of Chest procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

Consent for the Procedure: A “consent” is your approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent.

You must sign the forms only after you are totally satisfied with the answers to your questions. In case of minors and individuals unable to personally give their consent, the individual’s legal guardian or next of kin, shall give their consent for the procedure.

What are the Benefits versus Risks, for this Procedure?

Following are the benefits of the CT Scan of Chest:

  • A CT scan is a painless, noninvasive procedure; it does not have any side effects
  • It can take images of the soft tissues, bones, and blood vessels, at the same time
  • A CT scan may be used, even if the patient has an implanted medical device
  • CT scanning is a very accurate modality, hence it eliminates the need of having other diagnostic procedures
  • It is also very useful in emergencies, helping to quickly identify any internal injuries and bleeding
  • Unlike MRI, it is less movement-sensitive (the patients are generally asked to remain very still, while the test is under progress, for both a CT scan and an MRI scan as well)
  • A CT scan produces real-time imaging. It can be used for guiding needle biopsies and needle aspirations
  • This procedure is very fast and accurate. Thus, it can be used to diagnose pain caused by infections and inflammations

Following are the risks of the CT Scan of Chest:

  • Over-exposure to radiation in a CT scan procedure may cause cancer. But, generally the chances of developing cancer is very remote
  • The CT scan procedure is not recommended for pregnant women
  • It is recommended for mothers to breastfeed their children (at least) 24 hours after the contrast material is injected, for CT scanning
  • There is a rare chance of developing an allergic reaction, due to the contrast material containing iodine used in the CT scan
  • CT scanning is recommended for children, only if it is absolutely necessary, as children are very sensitive to radiation 

What are the Limitations of the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure?

Following are the limitations of the CT Scan of Chest:

  • MRI is recommended over CT scan for conditions related to soft tissues, tissues around the joints, etc.

What are some questions for your Physician?

Some of the basic questions that you might ask your health care provider or physician are as follows:

  • What is the CT Scan of Chest procedure?
  • Why is this procedure necessary? How will it help?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is it an emergency?
  • Who are the medical personnel involved in this procedure?
  • Where is the procedure performed?
  • What are the risks while performing the procedure?
  • What are the complications that might take place, during recovery?
  • What are the possible side effects from the procedure? How can I minimize these side effects?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • How many such procedures have you (the physician) performed?
  • Are there any lifestyle restrictions or modifications required, after the procedure is performed?
  • Are there any follow-up tests, periodic visits to the healthcare facility required, after the procedure?
  • Is there any medication that needs to be taken for life, after the procedure?
  • What are the costs involved?

During the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure:

What is to be expected during the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure?

The following may be expected during a Computed Tomography - Chest procedure:

  • There is no pain involved with this procedure.
  • There might be some noise of the device, as involved with any regular machine function
  • The individual may experience some anxiety, due to the noise of the machine, or from staying still for a long time, but no scan associated pain may be felt

What kind of Anesthesia is given during the Procedure?

No anesthesia is given during the Computed Tomography - Chest procedure.

How much Blood will you lose during the Procedure?

There is no blood loss involved during the Computed Tomography - Chest procedure.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure?

  • Over-exposure to radiation in a CT Scan of Chest procedure may cause cancer; however, such a risk is very low
  • The CT scan procedure is not recommended for pregnant women
  • Mothers are advised to breastfeed their children, only 24 hours after the contrast material for CT scanning is injected
  • There is a rare chance of developing an allergic reaction, due to the contrast material containing iodine used in the CT scan
  • CT scanning is recommended for children, only if it is absolutely necessary, as children are very radiation-sensitive

What Post-operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure?

There is no postoperative care necessary after the CT Scan of Chest procedure, at the healthcare facility.

After the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure:

What is to be expected after the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure?

Generally, no complications or side effects are observed after the Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of Chest procedure.

When do you need to call your Physician?

If the patient is experiencing an allergic reaction from the contrast material ; then, do contact the physician. However, a CT Scan of Chest may be performed with or without using contrast material.

What Post-operative Care is needed at home after the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure?

There is no postoperative care necessary after the Computed Tomography - Chest scan, at home.

How long does it normally take to recover fully, from the Procedure?

The patient needs no recovery time after the Computed Tomography - Chest scan.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue (if any), taken out during the Procedure?

No tissue is extracted from the patient during a CT Scan of Chest.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding the tissue taken out during the Procedure?

Since no tissue is removed during the procedure, a pathologist does not get involved in the care of the patient.

Who will you receive a Bill from after the Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the Chest radiology procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and other healthcare providers.

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility and the consultant physician charges. Sometimes, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from:

  • The hospital, where the procedure is performed
  • A radiologist, performing the procedure
  • Healthcare providers, physicians, who are involved in the process

The patient is advised to inquire and confirm the type of billing, before the CT Scan of Chest is performed.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 23, 2014
Last updated: Jan. 18, 2019