Head Computed Tomography Scanning Periprocedural Care

Updated: Sep 13, 2015
  • Author: Djamil Fertikh, MD; Chief Editor: Caroline R Taylor, MD  more...
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Periprocedural Care

Patient Education & Consent

Most importantly, the patient should discuss with their physician and understand the reason for the test and what type of information is expected from it. In addition, any alternative imaging or tests or consequences of not obtaining the CT scan should be discussed.

Prior to the CT scanning, the imaging center should contact the patient to remind him or her of any specific instructions.

Prior imaging studies, obtained at other institutions, can be very helpful to the interpreting radiologist, and the images and report on CD should be submitted by the patient upon arrival or prior to the study.

If intravenous contrast is needed, informed consent must be obtained, including an explanation of risks of reaction and benefits. A policy specifying what type of consent is required should be in place. Patients with no preidentified risk factors are generally asked to give verbal consent. At some medical centers, patients at higher risk might be required to sign a consent form explaining potential reactions to the contrast agent and ways to deal with them.

The patient should be provided with a copy of his or her CT scan(s) upon request before leaving the imaging center or if he or she is receiving care at another institution or office not linked via Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) to the imaging center.

The patient is informed that the results of the test will be communicated directly to his or her physician.

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Equipment

A CT scanner is a large, doughnut-shaped machine (see image below).

Picture of a CT scanner machine. Picture of a CT scanner machine.

A CT scan suite is typically divided in two rooms separated by a large window, consisting of a scan room, where the CT scanner machine is installed, and a second room, where the CT technologist operates the CT scanner.

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Patient Preparation

Anesthesia

Anesthesia is typically unnecessary with most CT scans.

Positioning

The patient typically lies on his or her back on the CT scanner table with head in the midline position. It is important to keep the head very still during the examination to avoid any motion artifact, and the technologist may gently wrap the head with Velcro bands to a stabilizing head rest.

Care is usually taken to avoid scanning the ocular globes to minimize potential cataract, which is achieved by appropriate head positioning such that the scans are obtained parallel to the skull base.

Disposable bismuth shields may also be used to protect the lenses.

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Monitoring & Follow-up

The patient is typically monitored in real time by the CT technologist. During the test, the CT technologist and patient can communicate at any time using an intercom.

Depending on the CT scan results, one or many follow-up examinations may be necessary to evaluate an abnormality.

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