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Abdomen and Pelvis CT - Benefits and Risks


  • An experienced radiologist can use abdominal CT to diagnose many causes of abdominal pain and other abnormalities with very high accuracy. This enables faster treatment and often eliminates the need for additional, more invasive diagnostic procedures.
  • When pain is caused by infection and inflammation, the speed, ease and accuracy of an abdominal CT examination can help direct prompt treatment to reduce the risk of serious complications such as those caused by a ruptured appendix or colonic diverticulum and the subsequent spread of infection.
  • Abdominal CT imaging is painless, noninvasive and accurate.
  • Unlike conventional x-rays, CT imaging provides very detailed images of many types of tissue in the abdomen including subcutaneous tissue, solid organs, bowel and bone. CT examinations are fast and simple; in emergency cases, they can reveal internal injuries and bleeding quickly enough to help save lives.
  • CT is less adversely affected by patient movement compared to MRI.
  • CT can be performed if you have an implanted medical device of any kind including a pacemaker, unlike MRI.
  • A diagnosis determined by abdominal CT imaging may eliminate the need for exploratory surgery.
  • Although CT uses radiation to acquire images, no radiation remains in a patient's body after abdominal CT.
  • X-rays used in standard CT exams have no immediate side effects.


  • CT is performed with X rays (radiation). As exposure to radiation increases, there is an increased risk of developing cancer. The exact risk of developing cancer from a single CT is not known, though from other data obtained from much higher radiation exposure (survivors of the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima in World War II), the expected risk from a single CT is expected to be minimal. While radiation exposure from a single CT is very small, we always recommend limiting exposure to radiation whenever possible and perform our exams with the least amount of radiation that we can. When it is felt that the information that may be obtained from CT is important to help treat a patient’s illness, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis is felt to outweigh the very small risk. If you have a question if there is alternative ways of diagnosing a problem that do not involve radiation, for instance if MRI or ultrasound could be alternatively used, please ask your doctor or talk to one of our radiologists.
  • Women should always inform their radiologist or technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. In general, CT imaging is not recommended for pregnant women. However, a CT may be medically necessary in a pregnant patient, when the risk to the patient and her baby is greater from the patient’s illness than the potential risk of the radiation from the exam.
  • The risk of serious allergic reaction to intravenous contrast materials that contain iodine is rare, however, our radiology departments are well equipped to deal with such adverse reactions. You should inform your radiologist or technologist of all medications you are taking and of any allergies. It is especially important to make sure we are aware if you have had a prior bad reaction to intravenous contrast.

Watch the CT - What to Expect Video.