Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) of the chest is a special noninvasive X-ray scan used to detect and diagnose health problems in the thorax (chest area). This scan can be used to evaluate symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, unexplained cough, fever, and other chest symptoms. Chest CT can also help confirm the diagnosis of pneumonia, tumors, anatomic abnormalities, and other lung diseases.
Your doctor may recommend a chest CT if you have symptoms that could be caused by a lung disease or disorder. A chest CT may also be ordered to help evaluate an abnormality seen on a regular chest X-ray. Disorders of the lung typically fall into several categories:
Chest CT can help visualize problems in the middle of your chest cavity that includes organs and structures such as the heart, major blood vessels, esophagus, trachea, nerves, thoracic duct, thymus, and lymph nodes.
Chest CT is used to evaluate disease in the lungs when preparing for surgery or cancer treatment. The exam is also used to assess the response to lung cancer treatment.
If you are, or think you are pregnant, be sure to notify your doctor or technologist before undergoing a CT scan. The amount of radiation received during a CT scan is unlikely to harm you or your baby. However, in general, CT scans are not recommended in pregnant women. In every case, the mother’s health must be considered as well. The benefit to the pregnant woman of having the CT scan to diagnose an illness may outweigh the small amount of risk to the baby from a low-dose CT scan.
The part of your body being scanned should also be considered. For example, brain CT exposes the unborn baby to little or no radiation. Even if the fetus is directly exposed to CT scan radiation (such as in CT scans of the abdomen or pelvis), the increased risk of developing cancer later in life is one in 1000. Some doctors may recommend another type of exam (ultrasound or MRI) to avoid exposing your baby to radiation.
The ACR states that current information suggests breastfeeding is safe after the use of intravenous contrast. Please discuss your breastfeeding options with your medical provider.
For more information on contrast, please see About CT Contrast.
To schedule a chest CT scan, please call our scheduling team at (512) 453-6100 or toll free at (800) 998-8214. A provider referral is required to make an appointment.
A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to interpret radiological examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to the provider who referred you to ARA. The physician will then share the results with you. Your report will also be available on the patient portal within 3 business days your exam.
If you are getting a CT exam at ARA and want to know...
VACCINES: ARA does not have any publicly available vaccines—we are passing ours along to groups that are set up for public vaccination. We appreciate your understanding.
MASKS: ARA continues to require employees and patients to wear masks at our imaging centers for the safety of all.