A computerized tomography (CT) scan of the stomach, commonly called a stomach CT scan, is a noninvasive medical procedure that produces three-dimensional scans of the entire abdomen region. These scans are used to diagnose a host of different stomach ailments, as well as to evaluate or examine possible sources of abdominal pain. Most scans focus on the stomach but may also include other nearby organs. Unless there are complications, a stomach CT scan is an outpatient procedure and usually takes an hour or less.
In most respects, computerized tomography scans are similar to x-rays, but are usually considered to be more comprehensive. While a standard x-ray usually produces only a static, one-dimensional picture, a CT produces a much more robust image, capturing views of the stomach from multiple angles. Similar rays are used, but they are transmitted and reflected differently. Seeing a person’s insides from multiple views allows doctors and other medical professionals to notice aberrations or abnormalities that they might have missed on a more static x-ray slide.
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There are several different types of CT scans, but all rely on similar technology. A CT machine is essentially a sophisticated photo-imaging apparatus that moves around a programmed point. The patient must usually lie or stand still, as the machine is the only thing moving. In the case of a stomach CT scan, patients usually lie flat on a table underneath a tube-like machine. At the doctor’s command, the scanner begins compiling images of the patient’s abdomen, which it transmits to a linked computer.
Stomach CT scan patients are often required to drink certain identifying liquids or marker solutions before the procedure. These solutions often provide a sharp contrast to the stomach images and help the contours of the stomach appear more clearly on the resulting scans. Sometimes, this marker is injected intravenously as well.
Cancers or abnormal growths are some of the most common reasons for an abdominal CT scan. Doctors can often make some preliminary observations of the stomach by doing external exams and stomach tests, but these are rarely conclusive. Patients with recurring pain or discomfort are often referred for a stomach CT scan in order to get a better picture of what is going on inside without the risks of exploratory surgery.
Not all CT scans are conclusive, particularly in the complex stomach region. Major growths are usually fairly obvious, but in the absence of any visible abnormalities, doctors often recommend further testing and treatment. Next steps are usually more invasive, but may be as simple as blood work or dietary modification. Usually, an abdominal CT is used as a means of ruling out the more obvious causes of abdominal pain. For this reason, doctors will often order the scan as a routine measure if symptoms cannot immediately be accounted for.