Computed axial tomography (CAT) scans, also called CT scans, produce detailed images which can be studied by medical experts to allow them to detect and diagnose a wide range of health problems.
Here is what you need to know about this type of test.
Complications with CAT scans
The CAT scan is a very safe test. The most serious reaction may be an allergy to oral or intravenous contrast (the special solution used to highlight the body part under investigation). The symptoms of this allergy can range from a sensation of heat and the appearance of a rash to a very serious allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock.
But there is no need to worry; medical staff are always in attendance to solve these infrequent incidents. The allergy is usually apparent immediately after the administration of the contrast. However, very rarely, an allergy may appear hours after administration of the contrast, causing itching, difficulty swallowing or breathing. In this case, you should urgently contact a doctor.
Intravenous contrast sometimes generates some heat when entering the body through the vein. In case it leaves the vein during its introduction it can produce local inflammatory reactions.
Intravenous contrast can rarely cause kidney failure. This was more frequent in the past with contrast media that are no longer used nowadays. On the other hand, the dose of radiation received in a CAT scan is very small and does not produce side effects.
The CAT results
The images obtained by the tomograph can be seen immediately. However, its interpretation requires much specialisation and is carried out by radiological doctors. This specialist will make a written report that will be delivered within a few days of the test along with the radiographic images obtained.
The report of the results will include data on the technique used, if necessary the use of contrast and the findings. The type of findings can vary greatly depending on the pathology and the organ studied. Many times, benign or malignant tumors can be identified, as well as signs indicative of various infections such as abscesses or cavities in some organ, or pathologies in the bones, such as fractures or malformations.
In relation to the vessels that irrigate the different organs, thrombi, vascular infarcts (due to the obstruction of an artery) or hemorrhages can be identified. Many times, it is necessary to repeat the test to see how the different lesions evolve, either spontaneously or with some treatment.
If you need a CAT urgently, you may choose to attend a private healthcare facility. While, obviously, a private facility offering a CT scan in London will cost more than if done through the NHS, the waiting time will be much less and the results available much quicker.
Normally, when the final results are ready, the doctor who originally asked for the test will give you the results and will indicate the need to do other complementary examinations or other treatment, as required.