Computed Tomography, or CT of the chest, combines x-rays with computer technology to create images of bones, tissues, and organ in the chest. Unlike standard x-rays which take a picture of the whole chest, CT has the ability to image the chest one “slice” at a time.

In standard x-rays, dense tissues like bones can block the view of the body parts behind them. In CT, the various image slices show the bone and the underlying soft tissue. CT assists physicians in both diagnosis and detection of many conditions at an early stage.

It is a short, painless procedure and emits very low amounts of radiation.

When would I get a CT of the Chest?

Your medical provider may recommend a CT of the chest to:

  • examine abnormalities found on conventional chest x-rays
  • help diagnose the causes of clinical signs or symptoms of disease of the chest, such as cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or fever
  • detect and evaluate the extent of tumors that arise in the chest or tumors that have spread there from other parts of the body
  • assess whether tumors are responding to treatment
  • help plan radiation therapy
  • evaluate injury to the chest, including the heart, blood vessels, lungs, ribs and spine
  • evaluate abnormalities of the chest found on fetal ultrasound examinations.

A chest CT may also be utilized to evaluate acquired and congenital lung abnormalities such as pneumonia, interstitial lung disease or tumor evaluation.

What Will I Experience?

A contrast dye that contains iodine is often injected into the blood during a CT of the chest.

The contrast dye makes blood vessels and organs inside the chest more visible on the CT images.

During a CT scan of the chest, the patient is positioned inside a ring or “gantry” that is part of the CT scanner. The ring tilts and the x-ray scanning devices within it rotates to obtain the views needed.

According to most people, the challenging part of a CT exam is from time to time the need to lie perfectly still. However, the technologist will keep you informed as to when to be still and when you can relax.

The examination typically takes about 30 minutes, including the time for exam interview and preparation. In some cases additional scanning is required as scans are tailored to suit individual diagnostic needs.