What to Expect During an Abdominal or Pelvic CT Scan

The technologist begins by positioning you on the CT examination table, usually lying flat on your back or possibly on your side or on your stomach. Straps and pillows may be used to help you maintain the correct position and to hold still during the exam.

If contrast material is used, it will be swallowed, injected through an I.V. or administered by enema, depending on the type of examination.

The table will move quickly through the scanner to determine the correct starting position for the scans. Then, the table will move slowly through the machine as the actual CT scanning is performed.

You may be asked to hold your breath during the scanning. Any motion, whether breathing or body movements, can affect the quality of the images.

When the exam is complete, you will be asked to wait until the technologist verifies that the images are of high enough quality for accurate interpretation.

Time Consideration

The CT scanning is usually completed within 30 minutes.

Other Factors

CT exams are generally painless, fast and easy. With helical CT, the amount of time you need to lie still is reduced.

Though the scanning itself causes no pain, there may be some discomfort from having to remain still for several minutes.

If an intravenous contrast material is used, you will feel a slight prick when the needle is inserted into your vein. You may have a warm, flushed sensation during the injection of the contrast materials and a metallic taste in your mouth that lasts for a few minutes. Some patients may experience a sensation like they have to urinate, but this subsides quickly.

If the contrast material is swallowed, you may find the taste mildly unpleasant; however, most patients can easily tolerate it. You can expect to experience a sense of abdominal fullness and an increasing need to expel the liquid if your contrast material is given by enema. In this case, be patient, as the mild discomfort will not last long.

Many times, iodine is injected into a vein to help evaluate blood vessels and organs such as the liver, kidneys and pancreas.

When you enter the CT scanner, special lights may be used to ensure that you are properly positioned. With modern CT scanners, you will hear only slight buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds as the CT scanner revolves around you during the imaging process.

You will be alone in the exam room during the CT scan. However, the technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times.

If the patient is a child, a parent may be allowed in the room but will be required to wear a lead apron to prevent radiation exposure.

After a CT exam, you can return to your normal activities. If you received contrast material, you may be given special instructions.