CT

CT scan guide: definition & walk-in CT scan centers

With the help of CT scans, doctors can identify potentially life-threatening diseases and injuries in various parts of the body. Whether you are searching for a walk-in CT scan in your area or simply want more information about how CT scans work, scan.com can ensure success on your journey for accurate medical imaging information. Discover more below about CT scans and how to find a trustworthy medical imaging provider in your area.

What is a CT scan?

Computer topography (CT) machines are computerized X-ray devices that capture detailed images of different areas of your body. Radiographers generally perform CT scans with patients lying down on a bed that slowly enters the opening of the CT machine, or the gantry. 

During a scan, CT machines cast narrow beams of X-rays that rapidly rotate around your body. By capturing incremental, cross-sectional pictures, or slices, of the body and then stacking them together, CT scans form 3D images that help doctors identify basic bodily structures, abnormalities, and diseases. 

Although bodily material like bone is often easy to see in medical imaging, it can be harder for radiologists to detect soft tissue without the aid of contrast dyes. CT scans, like many other medical imaging methods, use safe contrast agents (some of which are iodine-based) to help improve the visibility of the blood vessels in soft tissue. In turn, this improves radiologists’ ability to see and read your scan.

What can a CT scan detect?

CT scans can help your doctor identify abnormalities in your body - some of which can be dangerous - including tumors, lesions, diseases, blood clots, hemorrhages, and more. With the help of this valuable information, your radiologist or other physician can create a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Radiologists can conduct CT scans on many places of the human body, including (but not limited to) the:

  • Brain
  • Neck
  • Orbits
  • Heart
  • Adrenal glands
  • Cervical spine
  • Lumbar spine
  • Thoracic spine
  • Tailbone
  • Hips
  • Elbows
  • Wrists
  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach
  • GI tract
  • Bowels

How much does a CT scan cost?

The cost of a CT scan depends on a variety of factors, including whether you use insurance to pay for your scan, your particular provider, the scope of your scan, and more. To figure out how much your CT scan will cost, you can contact the imaging center directly to inquire about the price. If you would like to use your insurance benefits to pay for your scan, you may also ask your health insurance company about coverage and expected costs.

CT scan safety & risks

CT scans are FDA-approved and generally safe. They provide physicians with valuable information that can aid in the diagnosis and treatment of some dangerous conditions. However, some level of risk accompanies almost every medical procedure, including medical imaging scans. 

CT scans use X-rays to capture images of the body. X-rays produce onizing radiation, which can impact living tissue. Though the risk for developing cancer due to ionizing radiation is low, the impact of CT tests can accumulate with repeated exposure. This means there is a potential increase in risk for biological tissue damage when getting multiple scans. Still, radiographers do everything in their power to limit radiation exposure in a CT scan. 

Before your scan, be sure to tell your doctor whether you live with any medical conditions, such as kidney dysfunction.

How to find a CT center near you

Finding a medical imaging center or CT scanning center can be easy. Quickly find a CT scan center near you by using scan.com’s scan search tool. Other options for finding a CT center near you may include conducting a Google search, searching for medical imaging providers through your insurance plan portal, or asking your family physician for a referral.

Resources:

  1. ​​https://www.nibib.nih.gov/science-education/science-topics/computed-tomography-ct
  2. https://health.uconn.edu/radiology/wp-content/uploads/sites/195/2020/01/Radiology-CTscan.pdf

FAQs

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Yes, you can get a CT scan even if you do not have health insurance or if your insurance plan will not cover your CT scan. Many medical imaging providers give patients the option to pay for the full cost of medical imaging through “private payments”, or out-of-pocket payments.

A CT scan may last as little as 15 minutes. Some CT scans, such as oral CT scans with contrast, may be over an hour. How long your CT scan lasts will depend on the body part you are scanning.

Some CT scan centers may be able to fit you into their schedule the day that you book your appointment, but it's more common to find appointments days or weeks into the future. Whether you can book and receive your CT scan the same day depends on your provider. Once you locate a provider in your area using scan.com, you can call to inquire about available appointments.