How to prepare for a CT scan

Nurse Tina is on her 1st month of being a nurse. Having just graduated and passed the board, she’s not yet that familiar when it comes to routine. However, she is eager to learn as much as she an in order to be one effective and efficient nurse.

Today, she is assigned to a patient who is about to undergo CT scan, however, it confuses her how she should prepare for the procedure. What shall she do? What are certain preparations that need to be accomplished? She asks herself as she heads to the senior nurse to get some help.


Preparation for a CT scan typically depends of which part of the body is to be scanned. Usually, the patient will be asked to:

  • Take off some or all of the clothing and wear a hospital gown.
  • Remove any metal objects, such as a belt or jewelry, which might interfere with image results.
  • Stop eating for a few hours before the scan.
  • If a patient is going to have a contrast injection, he or she should not have anything to eat or drink for a few hours before the CT scan because the injection may cause stomach upset.
  • To receive the contrast injection, an IV is inserted into the arm just prior to the scan. The contrast then enters the body through the IV.
  • Prior to most CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis, it is important to drink an oral contrast agent that contains dilute barium. This contrast agent helps the radiologist identify the gastrointestinal tract (stomach, small and large bowel), detect abnormalities of these organs, and to separate these structures from other structures within the abdomen.
  • If the patient has a history of allergy to contrast material (such as iodine), the requesting physician and radiology staff should be notified.
  • The patient will be asked to drink slightly less than a quart spread out over 1.5 to 2 hours.
  • If an infant or toddler is having the CT scan, the doctor may recommend a sedative to keep the child calm and still. Movement blurs the images and may lead to inaccurate results.



Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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