A CT Head Scan is a medical procedure whereby a radiology technologist takes photos of the inside of your head. The person performing the CT Head Scan is called a radiology technologist. The person who looks at the x-rays is called a radiologist.

A CT Head scan uses x-rays to produce "3-D" pictures of your head. It means that special x-ray equipment takes recordings of different angles of your head, and then uses computers to put the information together to show a cross-section of your head.

Why do you need to have a CT Head Scan?

There are many reasons why your doctor might order a CT Head Scan. They are completed to:

  • Check symptoms, such as confusion, paralysis, numbness, vision problems, vertigo, or headaches, that might mean a brain injury, a brain tumor, a ruptured aneurysm, or bleeding inside the head in or around the brain is present.
  • Check for problems that may need surgery, or to help plan for surgery.
  • Find damage caused by a stroke and to help find the best treatment for the cause of a stroke.
  • Find the cause of a loss of consciousness or a changing level of consciousness.
  • Check on treatment or surgery for a brain tumor

What Happens During a CT Head Scan?

You will lie on a table that can move up or down, and this table slides into and out from the scanner, which looks like a donut. Both you and the table move into the scanner as it takes pictures of your head. The computer that processes the images is in another room and the radio technologist will be in this nearby room from which they control the scanner. The scanner takes pictures of your head as it goes around. You then wait to make sure that the pictures are ok and then you can go home. This test usually takes about 30 minutes, but because of delays that can occur, you should allow at least a full hour for the test.

Sometimes dye will need to be inserted in your arm during the head scan. A small needle connected to an intravenous line is placed in your arm or hand vein. More pictures will be taken once the dye is inserted and you wait to make sure that the pictures are ok and then you can go home. This test usually takes a little longer.

What do I need to do before the CT Head Scan?

There is nothing in particular that you need to do before a CT Head Scan without dye. You might like to wear loose clothing to the test. Also you will be asked to remove metal objects from your hair such as clips or jewellery. If you are having dye inserted then you might need to not eat around 4 hours before the test.

What do I need to do after the CT Head Scan?

Arrange for someone to take you home in case you need to have medicine to help you relax (a sedative) for the test.

What are the Risks of having a CT Head Scan?

There are very low levels of radiation used in this test. There is always a slight risk of damage to cells or tissue from being exposed to any level of radiation. However, the risk of damage from x-rays is very low. There is also a small risk of the dye that is put into your body.

Understanding Your CT Head Scan?

It is important to be informed about your medical care. When a test is ordered for you, it is good to know why the test is ordered, how it will be done, and what the doctor expects to learn from it. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • Why does this test need to be done? How could it change the course of my medical care?
  • What do you (the patient or caregiver) need to know or do before the test?
  • What happens during and after the test?
  • How much will the test hurt or be an inconvenience? What are its risks?
  • How long will the test take? When will the results be available?
  • Where do you need to go to take the test? Is there a "good" time to schedule the test?
  • What are normal results for my test? What do abnormal results mean?
  • What factors may affect the results?
  • What course of action may be next, after the test?