A throat CT (computerized tomography) scan is a diagnostic imaging tool used to evaluate the throat and detect various markers that may indicate disease and illness, from inflammation to malignancy. Similar to other types of CT scans, a throat CT scan involves the administration of radiation, which can increase one’s risk for cancer over the long term if the person is subjected to multiple scans. As with any non-invasive diagnostic test, little preparation is needed on the patient’s behalf prior to testing. Generally, as long as results fall within a normal range, additional testing is rarely performed.
Sometimes referred to as a throat scan, a throat CT uses X-ray to generate multiple images of the inside of the throat. Taken from several angles, these images are compiled and examined as a whole to check for signs of illness and disease. It is not uncommon for contrast dye to be used during testing to get as complete a picture as possible.
During a throat CT scan, the patient is positioned on a mobile table that fits inside the tunnel-like CT scanner. Prior to testing, the table will glide into the tunnel where it remains in position until testing is completed. While testing, the scanner’s X-ray unit circles the patient’s head and neck area to capture images of the throat. With each angle, a snapshot image is taken. Once all targeted areas are captured by X-ray, the test is complete and the images are used to craft a three-dimensional image of the inside of the throat.
Throat CTs are performed to check for abnormalities within the throat. Individuals may undergo a throat scan to determine the presence or extent of an infection. If there is significant inflammation of the throat, a CT scan may be conducted to determine its cause. Other conditions that may warrant a throat scan include arterial issues and abnormal swelling or masses. It is not uncommon for a throat CT scan to be used as a guide when certain types of biopsies are performed on the neck and throat.
If contrast dye is used, there are multiple methods of delivery. Frequently, contrast material is given orally prior to testing. Oral dyes are often milky in appearance, chalky in taste, and eliminated from the body as waste within a few hours of being given. Other methods of dye delivery include intravenous and rectal. Some individuals may be asked to temporarily discontinue their use of certain medications prior to dye-related testing to minimize the risk for interaction and complication during a throat CT scan.