Preparing for your CT Scan

Download CT/MRI Preparation Instructions (PDF)

CT procedures generally are covered by insurance plans, but you or your physician may be required to obtain authorization from or provide documentation of medical necessity to your insurance provider prior to your exam.

You should call Fast Track Admissions prior to your exam date to pre-register. You may call up to 30 days in advance of your exam.

  • For exams scheduled at Emory University Hospital, call 404-686-5270 or 1-800-640-9293.
  • For exams scheduled at Emory University Hospital Midtown, call 404-686-1573.
  • Fast Track Admissions also may be required for exams scheduled at The Emory Clinic. Please call 404-778-XRAY or ask your scheduler at the time you make your appointment.

Leading up to your exam:

  • Follow your doctor's instructions regarding any changes in how you take your regular medications and any eating and drinking restrictions.
  • If available, please bring any previous X-ray, CT and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) results and images with you to the imaging center.
  • Metal objects, such as jewelry and hairpins, may interfere with the CT scan and should be removed prior to the exam or left at home.
  • We may ask that you not eat or drink for several hours prior to your scheduled exam.
  • For some exams, we may ask you to take a contrast dye orally the night before your procedure.
  • If you are breastfeeding at the time of a procedure that includes the administration of contrast dye, it may be prudent to pre-pump milk for use until the contrast is safely out of your body, usually up to 24 hours.

The actual exam takes only a few minutes, but you should expect to be at the imaging center for one to two hours.

The Day of Your CT Scan

Plan to arrive 30 minutes before your appointment time. If you do not wish to change your clothes for the procedure, please wear a loose workout suit or other loose type of clothing that has absolutely no metal of any kind, including zippers or metal-backed buttons. For women, workout bras are ideal. You will need to remove your bra prior to the exam if it contains any metal.

Once at the imaging center, we will ask you to complete a screening questionnaire regarding:

  • Your medical history
  • Any medications you take
  • Any medication allergies you have
  • Whether you are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to get pregnant (if you are unsure if you are pregnant, we may either reschedule or ask that you take a urine pregnancy test prior to your exam)
  • Whether you have any metal objects on or in your body

We will ask you to remove any metal-containing items, such as jewelry (including body piercings), hairpins, hearing aids, glasses, wigs with metal clips and some nonpermanent dentures. We will also ask you to remove all objects from your pockets.

The CT Procedure

For Exams without Contrast:

We will ask you to lie still on a table that passes slowly through the "donut" portion of the scanner. Your technologist will leave the room before the imaging begins. The technologist will monitor you during the short scanning process and give any necessary directions, such as holding your breath momentarily, through the intercom. You will also be able to talk to your technologist through the intercom during the exam.

When the exam is complete, we will take you out of the scanner and ask you to remain in the waiting room while we review the images for completeness. Occasionally, additional images are required.

As we want to compile all of your information before issuing a report, our technologists are instructed not to tell you preliminary results during your study.

For Exams with Contrast:

For some types of scans, before the procedure indicated above, you will be required to receive a contrast dye ahead of time. Screenings with contrast dye are provided as contrast highlights specific areas in your chest and provides a clearer image (NIH). In these cases, you may drink the contrast. For many other CT exams, we will administer contrast into a vein while the CT scan is performed. This intravenous contrast method requires that we place an IV or needle in your arm vein prior to the CT exam; if you have a special venous catheter, we may be able to use it for the contrast.

If you are given intravenous contrast, you may feel a sensation of warmth or the urge to empty your bladder while it is being administered. This will go away within in a minute or two. It is important to remain as still as possible during this time so that the images we take are not blurry or unclear. There is also a small risk that the contrast dye can extravasate out of the vein it is being injected into and cause some swelling in the arm at the site of the IV. Usually, this event is not serious, with supportive treatment, such as an ice pack, without further care needed.