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CT Colonography

(Computed Tomography Colonography; Virtual Colonoscopy)

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Definition | Reasons for Test | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor

Definition

CT colonography is a radiology test that looks at your large intestines, also called your colon. It is one of many options for colon cancer screenings.

Reasons for Test

This test is used to look for polyps or cancers of the colon.

Colon Polyps

Nucleus Image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Possible Complications

CT colonography is safe. It can be used if you are too sick to have other forms of colon cancer screening.

In some cases, a contrast material is used. One complication may be an allergic reaction to the contrast.

What to Expect

  • Do not eat for 8-12 hours prior to the test.
  • A bowel cleansing will be done with a laxative. The goal of the cleansing is to rid your colon of all stool. The laxative will cause you to have many bowel movements over several hours.
  • If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medicines.

A radiologist will position you on your back on a movable x-ray table. Just before the test, a small tube will be inserted into your rectum. Air will be gently pumped through this tube. The table will move slowly though the donut-shaped CT scanner. While this is happening, you will need to lie very still. You will be asked to hold your breath during the scan. The scanning test will then be repeated with you lying on your stomach.

You will be able to leave after the test is done. You can resume your normal diet and activities.

30-40 minutes

You may feel cramping and bloating. You may feel the urge to have a bowel movement.

An expert will review the images. If something abnormal is seen, your doctor may suggest a colonoscopy.

Call Your Doctor

If you were given contrast, call your doctor if you notice:

  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Difficulty breathing

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American College of Gastroenterology

http://www.acg.gi.org

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

http://www.cag-acg.org

Canadian Cancer Society

http://www.cancer.ca

References:

CT colonography. RadiologyInfo.org website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=ct_colo. Updated June 5, 2012. Accessed March 1, 2013.

Fletcher RH. Colorectal cancer screening on stronger footing. NEJM. 2008;359:1285-1287.

Gore RM, Levine MS. Textbook of Gastrointestinal Radiology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Company; 2000.

Johnson CD, et al. Accuracy of CT Colonography for Detection of Large Adenomas and Cancers. NEJM. 2008;359(12): 1207-1217.

Mulhall P, Veerappan GR, Jackson JL, et al. Meta-analysis: computed tomographic colonography. Ann Intern Med. 2005;142(8):635-650.

Yee J. Screening CT Colonography. Radiol Clin North Am. 2004;42(4):757-766.

Last reviewed September 2013 by Daus Mahnke, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.