Computed Tomography (CT or CAT) Scan of the Abdomen

General Information:

  • Description: A CT scan involves taking X-ray pictures of the body and using computers to combine these pictures into a high-resolution image, making small abnormalities detectable. A radiology technician performs the test at an x-ray facility. The results are interpreted by a radiologist. A CT scan takes about an hour to complete. 
  • Discomfort: Minimal. An intravenous line has to be placed. The x-ray table can be uncomfortable to some people, the contrast dye can cause a hot flush and some people may experience anxiety during the test. 
  • Results: Usually within 1-2 days. Results can be available within 1 hour in emergency situations.
  • Risks of Procedure: Adverse reactions to contrast dye, risks associated with radiation during pregnancy 
  • Other Names: CT scan, CAT scan and computed axial tomography of the abdomen

Indications for the Test: 

  • To evaluate abdominal pain
  • To evaluate the organs of the abdomen including the stomach, small bowel, large bowel (colon), appendix, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, spleen, lymph nodes and female organs
  • To detect cysts, abscesses and cancer


  • A blood test of kidney function might be performed first to determine if the dye could be used safely. 
  • Avoid eating for four hours before the test. 
  • Some patients may require a sedative before the test. 
  • You remove all clothing and wear a hospital gown. 


  • About one hour prior to the test you may be asked to drink a solution of barium to provide an outline of the digestive tract. Contrast dye may be injected into your vein to highlight blood vessels.  The CT table, with the patient lying flat, is slowly moved through the center of the CT scanner. 
  • You are instructed to remain still and to hold your breath when each picture is taken. 

After the Test:

  • After dressing, you may leave.
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