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CT Scan or CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) Scan

CT Scan can detect tumors, lymph node abnormalities, bony abnormalities and abscesses. It is widely used in staging for radiation and chemotherapy treatment and trauma imaging, as well as imaging of the heart and its vessels.

CT creates a digital image using X-Rays originating from a source which moves around the patient. Combined with computer technology, these X-Rays produce a cross-sectional, 2 dimensional image of the body that allows radiologists to examine various organs, tissues, blood vessels and bones.

Specialty Services / Procedures

  • Cardiac Angiography
  • CT Enterography
  • Virtual Colonoscopy
  • CT Guided Biopsies and Drainages
  • Fiducial Marking for Cancer Treatment
  • Radiofrequency Ablation Procedures
  • Pediatric exams with and without conscious sedation


CT provides clearer, more detailed pictures than traditional X-rays. CT serves a wide range of purposes, such as diagnosing bone fractures and preparing for orthopedic surgery. Many exams involve contrast—a drink or injection that makes the images more informative – and you'll need a blood test beforehand to make sure the contrast will be safe for you. The technologist performing your exam will be nearby and able to talk to you throughout the scan.

Every exam is interpreted by a radiologist with specialty expertise in the specific area of the body under study. A specialist is capable of seeing and understanding subtle things due to advanced training and singular focus. The capabilities of our scanners, and the expertise of our technologists and radiologists, play a key role in tailoring each exam to your specific needs and reducing radiation exposure.


Here is how Alexander Norbash, MD, Chairman of Radiology explains the emphasis we put on patient safety, “BMC has been ahead of the curve in identifying novel approaches to ensure that patients receive the lowest radiation doses possible when they visit radiology.  Our commitment is to our patients and we will continue to make improvements to ensure their safety.”

There has been a 40% reduction in dose to patients between 2009 and 2010, and now our current CT exams are all within national reference ranges for acceptable dose levels.

What to Expect BEFORE My Exam

When you arrive in Radiology, you will be registered by a member of our Patient Access Services team and then be greeted by a CT Technologist, who will explain your specific exam to you. You will be asked to complete a contrast history form and answer questions about any medications you may be taking. Please make sure you bring a list of your current medications with you to your appointment. Based on your medical history and/or physician request, the length of your exam may vary from approximately a ½ hour to approximately 2 hours. 

Some exams require oral contrast. In this case, the technologist will administer the oral contrast and explain the process for this exam to you. The technologists need to wait approximately an hour and a half for the oral contrast to work its way through your intestines before they can begin imaging.  For these exams, please plan to spend approximately 2 hours in the department.

Many exams also require IV contrast. If this is the case and you do not need oral contrast, the technologist will take you to the scanner area to prepare you for your imaging exam.

What to expect DURING my exam

You will be asked to lie down on the CT scanner table either on your back or your stomach, and the technologist will be monitoring you the entire time. You may be asked to hold your breath for certain parts of the scan and it is very important you hold still so that your pictures are clear. The table will move in and out of the tube, capturing “slices” or pictures of the area. The entire scan should last about 15 minutes. Once the scan is completed, the technologist will review the images to make sure the scan is complete and then they will bring you out of the room and remove your IV if necessary.

What to expect AFTER my exam

Once the test is completed you can resume normal daily activities. If you received IV contrast, we ask that you drink plenty of water for the next 24 hours to help flush it out. If you drank oral contrast, you might notice that your stools appear white for a day or so after the test. This is completely normal. 

When can I expect my results?

Once the radiologist reads your images, your ordering physician will receive your results typically within 24 to 48 hours. Your physician will go over the findings with you.

Recommendations and Reminders

  • Please do not bring unattended children with you; by policy, we are unable to watch them for you.
  • Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment to allow for registration and preparation.
  • Procedure lengths vary and can last anywhere from ½ hour to 2 hours.

Patient Information

Please contact 617.638.6678, Monday-Friday between 8 am and 4:30 pm with any questions or concerns. Your call will be directed accordingly.

To obtain copies of your images, please call the film library at 617.414.5882.

For specific information regarding our CT Scan department, please contact:

Christine Seay  
Manager of CT


Call: 617.414.XRAY (9729)

Radiology Locations at Boston Medical Center:

Menino Pavilion
1st Floor
840 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118

Newton Pavilion
1st Floor
88 East Newton Street
Boston, MA 02118

Shapiro Center
Lower Level, Suite LL B
725 Albany Street
Boston, MA 02118

Refer a Patient

Call: 617.414.XRAY (9729)

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