CT scans for dummies

As ever, I’m not a doctor and I know nothing about medical things. I’m just a girl with a heart condition who likes running. 

One of my goals for this blog was to be honest about my heart condition and to encourage runners with ‘interesting’ hearts to live healthy, active lives. As such, I think it’s important that I talk about my own heart where applicable! Thus today’s post.

Today I went for a CT scan. This was purely a routine check, nothing to be worried about. My checkup in December went well but it’s been four years since my last scan – we’ve relied on echocardiograms in the meantime and scans give better, clearer pictures of things. I would ideally have had a MRI scan but I have a big titanium pin in one leg due to a skiing accident, so a CT scan it would be. Bring on the radiation, baby!

I was very nervous for my first CT scan. In the end it turned out to be much less scary than I’d anticipated so I thought it might be useful to outline the procedure for anyone else who might be having a CT scan and might be worried.

Beforehand, you’re supposed to not eat or drink for three hours beforehand because the drugs administered can cause nausea. No-one told me this so I enjoyed my two cups of Earl Grey and my bowl of muesli as usual. No vomiting here though – stomach of steel, this girl.

Firstly, I had to take off all my clothes above my waist (including jewellery) and put on a delightful blue gown. I got to keep on my jeans but rolled them down to my knees and I got to keep my boots on too. Then I was escorted into the room and I saw this beast.

CT scan

Freaky, eh? I hadn’t been at all nervous beforehand but seeing the machine unnerved me a little. Someone described it as a portal into another world and it kind of looks like that. The three ladies who were managing my appointment bustled about me. They were lovely and made me comfortable and as at ease as I could be. I lay down on the bed as one lady put the patches on my body. Two on my chest, just where the chest joins the shoulders, and two on my body, at the bottom of my ribs. The other lady put in an IV feed. This was pretty much painless – bring your best veins, people!

After this, they retreated to the safety of the little room attached, where they could see me through the giant glass window and press all the buttons. They left me slightly freaked out, IV arm in the air and the bed slid towards the scanner. I am not claustrophobic and, if you are, I don’t think there’s any real need to worry about this scan. You’re never enclosed and the machine doesn’t get too close. It’s a bit weird though. There was some whirring and a voice told me to hold my breath. Some preparatory photos were taken.

Then the ladies came back in and administered the iodine into my system before retreating to their room. The iodine feed is the weirdest. You literally feel it work round your body with your bloodstream. It starts in your IV arm and this lovely warmth creeps down your body and your leg, back up into your lady bits (a rather nice sensation, got to be honest), down your other leg, up the side and round to your heart. Then a few moments later, your eyeballs go ever-so-slightly warm too.  It feels crazy but it’s not unpleasant and I felt delightfully warm and glowy, like the Ready Brek man!


A few more photos and the job is done. Once you’re wired up, the whole thing takes about ten minutes and is completely painless. Within minutes, I was outside holding my well-deserved coffee. I felt a little shaken, but there was no need to feel that way. It was all very easy.

So there you go. You’re now ready for your CT scans!!

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Nic J says:

    Sounds almost fun – not bothered about the scan bit but sign me up for the iodine part… 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      You’d like that bit

  2. Bean says:

    This is exactly what mine was like this past summer. I was super nervous about the whole thing cause I thought I might pop through to the other side and be in a different dimension or something but no (Stargate anyone?? No just me nerding out over here, okay). I thought the iodine was the worst part. The pictures of your heart after are pretty amazing though. Technology is so awesome. Hope everything turns out great with the scan!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Ooh, I didn’t get to see the pics! I might ask to. Got the results yesterday and all is super-cool with the old ticker, yay!

      1. Bean says:

        Super happy all is well with the heart!

  3. Rachel Thompson says:

    Apologies if I post twice – I blame my mobile, I’ll paraphrase:) Had same experience with warming iodine, the LGI is a tad nippy in Feb, so the warmth was welcome. Also felt shaky afterwards, perhaps it’s a side effect because I was relaxed (debating biscuits types with the nurses) but was made to walk round the scanner until I looked less peaky. I was told to drink loads afterwards to flush out the dye. Had another as a pre op assessment, took 3 secs, no dye and no biscuits! Hope results are reassuring and useful info Cat x

    1. Cathryn says:

      Interesting about the shakiness. I didn’t think I was nervous enough to be shaky afterwards either so it must be a side effect. Results were GOOD thanks, lovely!

  4. Emma says:

    Gosh yes must say have had both CT and a couple of MRIs and would prefer CT every time – not such a claustrophobic tube and no stupidly loud noise!!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, I think an MRI would make me much more uncomfortable too. But much less radiation apparently!

  5. Jen says:

    I had to get a MRI when I tore my ACL. It wasn’t that bad since I didn’t have to go all the way in, just up to my chest. I fell asleep after 3 minutes of the machine being on, so I’d say it was pretty comfortable! 🙂

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