Benefits vs Risks of an Abdominal or Pelvic CT Scan

CT Scan Benefits

  • Viewing a CT scan, an experienced radiologist can diagnose many causes of abdominal pain with very high accuracy. This enables faster treatment and often eliminates the need for additional, more invasive diagnostic procedures.
  • When pain is caused by infection and inflammation, the speed, ease and accuracy of a CT examination can reduce the risk of serious complications such as those caused by a burst appendix or ruptured diverticulum and the subsequent spread of infection.
  • CT scanning is painless, noninvasive and accurate.
  • A major advantage of CT is its ability to image bone, soft tissue and blood vessels all at the same time.
  • Unlike conventional X-rays, CT scanning provides very detailed images of many types of tissue as well as the lungs, bones, and blood vessels.
  • CT examinations are fast and simple; in emergency cases, they can reveal internal injuries and bleeding quickly to help save lives.
  • CT has been shown to be a cost-effective imaging tool for a wide range of medical problems.
  • CT is less sensitive to patient movement than MRI.
  • CT can be performed if you have an implanted medical device of any kind, unlike MRI.
  • CT imaging provides real-time imaging, making it a good tool for guiding minimally invasive procedures such as needle biopsies and needle aspirations of many areas of the body, particularly the lungs, abdomen, pelvis and bones.
  • A diagnosis determined by CT scanning may eliminate the need for exploratory surgery and surgical biopsy.
  • No radiation remains in a patient's body after a CT examination.
  • X-rays used in CT scans usually have no side effects.

CT Scan Risks

  • There is always a slight chance of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.
  • The effective radiation dose from this procedure is about the same as the average person receives from background radiation in three years.
  • Women should always inform their doctor and X-ray or CT technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
  • CT scanning is, in general, not recommended for pregnant women unless medically necessary because of potential risk to the baby.
  • Nursing mothers should wait for 24 hours after contrast material injection before resuming breast feeding.
  • The risk of serious allergic reaction to contrast materials that contain iodine is extremely rare, and radiology departments are well-equipped to deal with them.
  • Because children are more sensitive to radiation, they should have a CT study only if it is essential for making a diagnosis and should not have repeated CT studies unless absolutely necessary.