What is computed tomography of the abdomen?

Computed Tomography (CT) of the abdomen is a diagnostic test that allows processing of images of anatomical sections through the use of X-ray. It provides images of the parenchyma, the arteries and veins and other abdominal structures. An X-ray tube, mounted in an open structure, rotates around the patient. The information is collected and processed digitally.


What is the purpose of a CT scan of the abdomen?

Computed tomography allows the study of the organs and structures of the abdomen, including the liver, pancreas, kidneys, blood vessels and it also investigates:


  • Patency of the vessels and the state of the wall.
  • Any neoplastic diseases (cancers of the colon, pancreas, liver, kidneys)
  • The effectiveness of cancer treatments.
  • Problems of inflammatory or infectious nature or abscesses (pancreatitis, cholecystitis).
  • Bone or visceral trauma.
  • Possible internal bleeding.


It can be used as a guide for the removal of tissue, via biopsy, useful for further histological examination. It can also be helpful in the presence of abdominal pain, especially in emergency cases.


Preparation standards

The examination may be performed with or without the administration of an intravenous iodinated contrast. If the exam is performed using contrast, the patient should fast from solid foods in the six hours prior to the examination. Normal water hydration is allowed. It is required that the patient undergoes blood tests before the exam to evaluate liver and kidney function and thus the patient’s ability to discard the contrast material after the exam. Any other drug therapies should not be discontinued, particularly the ones used to treat hypertension. However, an exception should be made for the drug Metformin on the day of the contrast CT. 

Which patients can undergo the exam?

The use of contrast material may not be recommended in case of prior allergic reaction or severe renal impairment. The exam is also not recommended for pregnant women.

Is the exam dangerous or painful?

The CT scan is completely painless. The noise of the machine may be slightly annoying. The only discomfort may occur from the injection of the contrast material, injected intravenously, which can cause a sensation of heat.

The machine for the CT scan is an open tube, which does not cause problems of claustrophobia.


How is the exam performed?

The patient is made ​​to lie on a bed that moves horizontally in an open tube. To obtain quality images, it is necessary that the patient remains still throughout the entire exam. The duration of the CT scan is on average about 10 minutes.