Why did my healthcare provider order a lung CT scan?

May 6, 2024 – 11 min read

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When your healthcare provider recommends that you get a CT scan of the lungs, you might start feeling a little worried, and you’re not alone. Lots of people feel the exact same way.

Getting a diagnostic imaging scan, like a lung CT, can bring a lot of questions to mind for you and your loved ones.

We want to help you understand why your provider recommended a lung CT scan, as well as what you can expect during a lung CT, and what happens after.

Let’s look at everything you need to know about lung CT scans.

What is a lung CT scan?

A lung CT scan is a sophisticated medical imaging study that uses advanced technology to create detailed pictures of your lungs. 

Unlike traditional imaging methods that capture flat images, a CT scan provides a comprehensive, 360-degree view of your lungs by combining several cross-sectional images (sort of like slices) taken from different angles. 

This technology allows healthcare providers to see your lungs in high resolution, offering clarity and details that are crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment planning.

What details can a CT scan reveal about my lung health?

A lung CT can uncover subtle changes in lung tissue, detect small nodules or masses that might not be visible with less advanced imaging, and provide critical insights into the presence and extent of lung diseases (like pneumonia, emphysema, or cancer).

Also, CT scans can highlight abnormalities in the size, shape, or function of your lungs and airways. 

This level of detail is invaluable for your healthcare provider, offering a clear picture of your lung condition, and guiding the next steps in your care.

Why is a CT scan a good choice for examining my lungs?

Lung CT scans can produce detailed and highly accurate images, which makes CT scans an indispensable tool in the early detection and diagnosis of various lung conditions. 

CT scans are also very effective in quickly capturing many images of your lungs, reducing the need for repeated scans, and potentially saving you some time.

By providing a detailed view of the lungs, a CT scan empowers healthcare providers to make informed decisions about your treatment, tailor interventions to your specific needs, and monitor the progress of lung conditions over time.

Why your healthcare provider ordered a lung CT scan

Your healthcare provider recommended a lung CT scan because they want to take a closer look at your lungs. They want to make sure your lungs are healthy, and a CT scan is a quick and pain-free way to do so.

Certain symptoms and conditions may have led your provider to order a lung CT, and in this section, we’ll outline why your provider may think you need a CT scan of the lungs.

What symptoms or conditions would warrant a lung CT scan?

If you’ve been experiencing persistent coughing, unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain, or other respiratory symptoms, a CT scan can provide clear images to help pinpoint the cause. 

A lung CT scan is also crucial when there’s a need to investigate abnormalities seen during a routine check-up, or to monitor the progression of diagnosed lung conditions. 

The level of detail it offers makes the lung CT scan a valuable tool in detecting a wide range of lung problems, including infection, inflammation, tumors and structural abnormalities.

How does a lung CT scan help to diagnose a condition of the lungs?

By offering a three-dimensional view of the lungs, healthcare providers can examine the organ from all angles, identifying areas of concern that might not be visible with other diagnostic methods. 

This comprehensive view helps in detecting early signs of disease, determining the extent of lung damage, and distinguishing between similar symptoms that could be caused by different conditions. 

A CT scan’s images offer a more accurate diagnosis, allowing for targeted treatments that can address the specific issues present in the lungs.

Why is a lung CT scan recommended for people with a history of smoking or exposure to lung irritants?

For individuals with a history of smoking or significant exposure to lung irritants, such as certain chemicals or pollutants, a lung CT scan becomes an even more critical component of healthcare. 

These individuals are at a higher risk for developing lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer

Early detection through a CT scan can make a substantial difference in the effectiveness of treatment, potentially identifying diseases before they show symptoms. 

By using CT scans to closely monitor the condition of the lungs, healthcare providers can implement preventative or early treatment strategies, with a goal of improving quality of life and outcomes.

Woman entering CT Machine feet first with the assistance of CT technologist.

What to expect from your lung CT scan

Many people find that a CT scan is nothing to worry about. It requires minimal preparation, it’s quick, and non-invasive.

We’ll outline what you can do to get ready for your lung CT scan, what you can expect during the scan, and what happens afterwards.

How should I prepare for a lung CT?

Preparing for a lung CT scan usually involves a few simple steps you can follow to ensure the best possible outcome for your scan.

You’ll likely be given specific instructions from your healthcare provider, which may include fasting before your appointment. This is because some scans require a contrast agent to be introduced into your body, which enhances the visibility of your lung tissues. 

You might also be advised to avoid wearing any jewelry or clothing with metal fasteners or zippers to the appointment, as these can interfere with the imaging process.

 What should I expect during my lung CT scan?

The scan itself is quick and painless. You’ll be asked to lie down on a scanning table, and the technician may use pillows or straps to help you stay in the correct position. 

As the table slowly moves through the scanner, it’s important to stay as still as possible; movement can blur the images. 

The machine might make some whirring or clicking sounds, which is perfectly normal. 

If your scan requires a contrast dye, you might feel a warm sensation or a metallic taste in your mouth when it’s administered, but this is temporary. 

Remember, the technologist will be nearby and can communicate with you through an intercom system at any time if you’re feeling uncomfortable or need assistance.

What happens after a CT scan of the lungs?

Once your lung CT scan is complete, you’re free to go about your day as normal. 

If you received a contrast agent, you might be advised to drink plenty of water to help flush it out of your system. 

If you have any questions or concerns after your CT scan, be sure to let your provider know, so you can receive the best available care.

What you need to know about your CT results

Understanding the results of your lung CT scan can feel a little intimidating, especially if this is your first time getting a CT scan. 

We’re here to give you a better understanding of what to expect from your lung CT results, so you’ll be ready to discuss your results with your provider.

How long will my lung CT results take? How are the results interpreted?

The waiting period for the results of your lung CT scan can vary, typically ranging from a few days to a week. 

This timeframe allows a radiologist, a specialist in reading and interpreting medical images, to thoroughly review your scans. 

The radiologist will examine the images for any signs of lung conditions or abnormalities, comparing them to standard benchmarks and to previous scans, if available. 

They then compile their findings into a report, which is sent to your healthcare provider, who will interpret the results in the context of your overall health and medical history. 

What does it mean if abnormalities are found in my lung CT scan?

Finding abnormalities in your lung CT scan can sound alarming, but it’s important to remember that not all abnormalities are indicative of serious health issues. 

Abnormalities can range from common, non-threatening conditions like small lung nodules or cysts to signs of lung infections, inflammations, or more significant concerns such as tumors. 

It’s crucial to approach these findings with an open mind and not jump to conclusions. 

Your healthcare provider will discuss the results with you, explaining what the abnormalities might mean, and reviewing. 

This conversation is an opportunity for you to ask questions and express any concerns, ensuring you have a clear understanding of what the findings mean for your health.

What happens if my provider is concerned with my CT scan results?

If your healthcare provider is concerned about the findings from your lung CT scan, they will discuss the next steps with you, which might include further diagnostic testing, routine follow-up CT scans, consultations with specialists, or starting a treatment plan. 

It’s normal to feel anxious or overwhelmed if your provider recommends further steps, but remember that early detection and intervention are very important for your health. 

Your provider will work with you to develop a plan that considers your health needs, preferences, and concerns. This collaborative approach ensures that you’re supported and informed at every stage of your care.

How to schedule your CT appointment with us

Touchstone Medical Imaging offers CT scans in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas. 

Reach out to us at Touchstone, and we’ll help you schedule a CT appointment at an imaging center near you, today.

We’re here to help you get the answers you need.

Find a touchstone medical imaging center near you

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

A lung CT scan is a detailed imaging procedure that provides a comprehensive view of your lungs and airways.

A CT scan can reveal detailed images of lung tissue, helping to identify conditions like infections, tumors, or clots.

CT scans offer high-resolution images, making them exceptionally useful for diagnosing lung issues that standard X-rays might miss.

Symptoms such as persistent cough, difficulty breathing, or unexplained chest pain may require a lung CT scan for diagnosis.

A lung CT scan helps by providing detailed images that can confirm the presence of diseases, abnormalities, or injuries in the lungs.

It’s recommended because they are at a higher risk for lung diseases, which a CT scan can detect early.

Preparation may involve refraining from eating or drinking for a few hours before the scan, but specific instructions will be provided by your healthcare provider.

Abnormalities may indicate the presence of lung diseases or conditions, which will require further evaluation and possibly additional tests.