Before we get into the costs of cat scans, we thought it would be helpful to discuss this impressive medical technology.
First, A CT scan and a CAT scan are the same things. CT (the more modern version of the name) stands for computerized tomography. CAT stands for computerized axial tomography. No matter the name, a CT scan provides detailed images of the body’s soft tissues, blood vessels, and bones. A CT scanner is used when doctors need more detailed information than typical x-rays would provide.
How “Computed Tomography” Works
Unlike an x-ray machine that sends one radiation beam, a computerized axial tomography scan works by emitting a series of narrow beams through the body. This series of beams takes images at hundreds of different levels of density. It can even see tissues within a solid organ.
Once the data is gathered, it is transmitted to a computer, which builds 3-D cross-sectional images of the specific body part being studied. The three-dimensional images appear in shades of blacks and grays. Sometimes, a contrast dye is used to help show specific structures more clearly. Finally, a radiologist, a physician specializing in reading and interpreting scans and other radiologic images, will review the CT imaging and write a report about what is found in the CT images.
What To Expect When Having a CT Scan
In some cases, scans don’t require much preparation. For example, a computed tomography CT scan can immediately diagnose internal injuries or a stroke.
However, if you’re scheduled for a CT scan with a contrast agent, you may be given specific instructions before the test. Otherwise, you only need to remove metal objects, including jewelry, watches, glasses, hairpins, hearing aids, underwire bras, dentures, and medication patches to prepare for the scan.
You’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown when you arrive for your test. You’ll be secured with Velcro straps on a long narrow table. The table will slide inside an “x ray tube,” and the technician will leave the room to manage settings and communicate with you through a speaker. You may hear loud noises or be asked to hold your breath to reduce the likelihood of blurry images. Once the computed axial tomography machine has done its job, you will wait for the radiologist to read the results.
A CT scan is typically described as a painless procedure. However, when the contrast materials are injected, you might feel warm or flushed. Some also report having a metallic taste in their mouths from the contrast agents.
Risks Of Having Cat Scans
CT scans are generally safe. However, ionizing radiation is used to capture the image. Radiation exposure can cause a slight increase in your risk of developing cancer. Also, occasionally, patients have a minor or serious allergic reaction to the contrast agent. (And contrast dye is not good for your kidneys.)
The National Cancer Institute says that “not having the procedure can be more risky than having it . . . in someone who has signs or symptoms of disease.” The American Cancer Society agrees that the radiation dose and contrast media may be necessary to diagnose or see how the cancer treatment is working.
Are CT Scans Expensive?
A computed tomography scan varies in price depending on where it is performed. For example, CT scanning in a hospital can cost thousands of dollars, but those performed at an outpatient facility may be much cheaper.
Why You May Need a CT Scan
Although some risks come from having a scan (cancer risk and reduced kidney function from the oral contrast), the scanner will produce images from different angles, allowing doctors to diagnose the following conditions:
- Bone fractures
- Coronary artery disease and heart disease (The scan can identify weakened sections of arteries or veins and visualize blood flow.)
- Cancer and other tumors
- Internal bleeding and injuries
- Disease in soft tissue and internal organs
Despite the cost and risk of allergic reactions, you can see why this imaging technique might be medically necessary. After all, doctors who perform CT scans will have more information about what is going on inside your body than what they can learn from a regular x ray image or blood test.
Find Low-Cost CT Scans in Your Area With AmeriPlan
The information from the detailed image your doctor receives from your biomedical imaging scan may save your life. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shop around for the best price – especially if you need multiple CT scans or x rays, or a spiral CT. To find the best price for testing in your area, purchase a low-cost health benefit plan through AmeriPlan.