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CT scan is a type of imaging test. It uses X-rays and computer technology to make images or slices of the body. A CT scan can make detailed pictures of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, organs, and blood vessels. They are more detailed than regular X-rays.
In a CT scan, an X-ray beam moves in a circle around your body. This allows many different views of the same part of the body. The X-ray information is sent to a computer that interprets the X-ray data and displays it on a monitor.
During some tests you receive a contrast dye. This will make parts of your body show up better in the image.
CT scans of the liver and biliary tract can provide more detailed information about the liver, gallbladder, and related structures than regular X-rays of the abdomen. CT scans can give health care providers more information related to injuries and/or diseases of the liver, gallbladder, and biliary tract.
A CT scan of the liver and biliary tract may be used to check the liver and/or gallbladder and their related structures for:
A CT scan may be done when another type of exam, such as an X-ray, physical exam, or ultrasound, is not conclusive.
CT scans of the liver and biliary tract may also be used to guide needles during biopsies of the liver. A biopsy involves removing a small piece of tissue so it can be examined in the lab.
It can also be done to help remove fluid from the area of the liver and/or biliary tract. CT scans of the liver are useful in the diagnosis of certain types of jaundice. Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and eyes that’s caused by certain liver problems.
There may be other reasons for your health care provider to recommend a CT scan of the liver and biliary tract.
You may want to ask your health care provider about the amount of radiation used during the CT scan. He or she can also explain your personal risks.
If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your health care provider. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects.
If contrast dye is used, there is a risk for allergic reaction to the dye. If you are allergic to or sensitive to medicines, contrast, or iodine, tell your health care provider.
People taking the diabetes medication metformin or Glucophage should alert their health care provider before having IV contrast. It can cause a rare condition called metabolic acidosis. If you take metformin, you will be asked to stop taking it 24 hours before and for 48 hours after your CT scan. A blood test may be needed before you can start taking metformin again.
People with kidney failure or other kidney problems should notify their health care provider. In some cases, the contrast dye can cause kidney failure, and people with kidney disease are more prone to kidney damage after contrast exposure.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical problems. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your health care provider before the procedure.
Certain things can make a CT scan of the liver and biliary tract less accurate. These include:
You may have a CT scan as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition.
Generally a CT scan of the liver and biliary tract follows this process:
While the CT scan itself causes no pain, having to lie still for the length of the procedure might cause some discomfort or pain, particularly if you’ve recently been injured or had surgery. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
If contrast dye was used, you may be watched for a period of time for any side effects or reactions to the contrast dye. These include itching, swelling, rash, or trouble breathing. Tell the radiologist or your health care provider right away if you notice any of these symptoms.
Tell your health care provider if you notice any pain, redness, and/or swelling at the IV site after you go home. These could be signs of infection or other type of reaction.
Otherwise you don't need any special care after a CT scan of the liver and biliary tract. You may go back to your usual diet and activities unless your health care provider tells you differently.
Your health care provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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