How Long Does A CT Scan Take (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 10 to 30 Minutes

Computed tomography, otherwise commonly known as CT scan, is an important diagnostic tool for detecting injuries and diseases. It takes internal pictures that show the thin slices of bones, organs, muscles, and blood vessels so that a patient’s healthcare provider can study the body in great detail and offer a diagnosis.

The most common question anyone asks is the amount of time it takes to get a CT scan. It differs from traditional X-ray machines as it produces images of a cross-section of the body. One can have a CT scan in a hospital or imaging center.

How Long Does A CT Scan Take?

Type of ScanDuration
CT Scan 10 – 30 Minutes
MRI scan15 – 90 Minutes

A traditional CT scan can take between 10 minutes and 30 minutes, depending on the options taken for the test.

CT scans are more detailed than many other standard tests because objects closer to the film’s detector will produce higher-quality images with less blurriness. 

This is one reason that CT scans are often used for looking at areas of concern like arterial vessels or lungs or solid tumor masses with important sparsely distributed information within them. 

These images may require long scanning times, which may be an issue if one needs to plan by scheduling a test in advance, or it could lead to waiting periods before processing images due to high volume demands.

A CT or “computed” axial tomography uses data obtained from other radiological information, traditionally gathered using x-rays alone. Contrary to popular belief, a CT scan does not involve using radioactive materials but rather relies on ionizing radiation emitted by electronic apparatus which use computers to calculate details of structures inside the body.

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Usually, when the scanning begins, the bed moves into the round-shaped scanner. The person on the bed must stay still because even a slight movement can create blurry images. Compared to MRI scans, CT scans are very silent. When the exam is over, the table moves back easily.

The machine is open on both ends; if one person dislikes enclosed space, talking with the doctor beforehand is better to avoid any panic situation.

Why Does CT Scan Take So Long?

There are so many CT scans performed each day in this country that we don’t have any means of measuring how long a scan takes. However,  it is safe to say that the total value of the time spent on scanning and imaging by all providers nationwide is enormous. 

Some groups, difficult to estimate how big they might be, spend more than one-third of their heads-down awake time getting scanned or imaged using MRI or CT machines.

Generally, the CT scan of the Abdomen takes 30 minutes more or less as it takes time to detect disease in the small bowel or colon. One can easily diagnose inflammatory bowel disease, kidney stones, and appendicitis. It is important to let the physician know that if a patient is pregnant or nursing a baby.

A CT scan typically takes between 10 and 30 minutes. If it’s performed as a head scan, there are rarely any image issues prescribing the time to 20 minutes or less. Sometimes, scanning rates have been decreased from 180-360 scans per second to 120 because of radiation concerns from doctors’ fear of losing a “confirming” diagnosis during a delay in viewing the images.

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Not to mention, many hospitals today are installing 2 special 2D scanners which can take over 400 simultaneous CT scans at once – meaning nearly an hour it will take for one scanner to complete its examination. A patient must lie on their back on a table during the CT scan, and the healthcare provider will inject contrast dye into their vein.

Conclusion

To get the results of the CT scan, it typically takes 24 hours. The radiologist who specializes in interpreting the scan will review it and explain the report. Sometimes, during an emergency, the results are back within an hour. 

The CT scan takes 10 to 30 minutes to complete, and after the healthcare provider gives the go-ahead to resume normal activities, it is safe. Overall, with a CT scan, one can find certain types of cancer, blood clots, heart disease, internal bleeding, and other injuries. Compared to X-rays, a CT scan shows a clearer view of the internal organs and muscles.

References

  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/abs/neuropsychological-deficits-and-ct-scan-changes-in-elderly-depressives/0FE5FBFF1B1EA8B3E5AE4B5EE52F966A 
  2. https://europepmc.org/article/med/2913665 
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