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What does CT scanning do?

Computed Tomography (CT) technology uses X-rays and computers to create cross-sectional “slices,” or images of the body. These images provide precise information about the anatomy at each location, or slice. Bones, soft tissue, brain, organs, and blood vessels can all be imaged. Although CT does expose the patient to ionizing radiation, at Regional West, radiologists and technologists work closely to assure that each CT scan is done using the lowest possible radiation dose, especially for children.

CT technology is advancing rapidly. Today’s scanners are faster and yet create images with even better detail than older scanners. Regional West has two multi-slice CT scanners. One can process 16 slices with each revolution of the X-ray tube; the other can process 64 slices with each rotation. One of the CT scanners is equipped with a special fluoroscopy unit so it may be used for guidance during special CT procedures like biopsies.

CT exams are scheduled for outpatients from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Your primary care physician must refer you for a scheduled CT scan. CT is available for inpatients and emergency patients at all times. Note that many insurance companies now require a pre-authorization before they will cover an outpatient CT exam. Patients are advised to contact their insurance company ahead of time to assure coverage. 

What to expect during a CT exam

During a CT exam, you will lie on a table that passes through the center of the scanner. As the part of the anatomy being examined passes through the opening, the X-ray tube circles around the patient.  Detectors collect the X-rays that have come through the patient and pass the information along to the computers, which then construct images from the data. Hundreds of images may be processed during a single CT exam and are stored digitally. Most CT exams take 30 minutes or less for the scan.

Some types of CT exams require the use of contrast. You may be asked to drink a special liquid before your scan, or contrast may be injected into a vein through an IV during the scan. Contrast helps to identify specific structures and functions within the body. The type of exam ordered will determine whether or not contrast is necessary. Patients may be asked to change into hospital pajamas for some types of CT exams.

CT patients are cared for by a registered radiologic technologist. This technologist is specially certified in CT imaging by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), and assists the patient into the correct position, plans the scan, and operates the equipment. The technologist is assisted by a tech aide who helps with paperwork, delivers the contrast to drink, sets up the room, and generally helps you through the exam.                         

The completed CT images are examined by a board certified radiologist and the report is sent directly to your physician, who will then contact you with the results.