Radiating Hope: Radiology Department Blog


What Does a CT with Contrast Feel Like?

What Does a CT with Contrast Feel Like?

My daughter has had a few CT scans due to complications from cystic fibrosis.  She was very young and had to be put under general anesthesia, but I never knew what a CT with contrast felt like–until recently. In October, I gave birth to my second daughter via cesarean section. About 5 days later, I was experiencing intense chest pain and my doctor told me to go to the emergency room because I was at risk for a blood clot due to my recent surgery.

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The exam of choice to rule out blood clot was a CT scan with contrast. I arrived at the emergency room, was given an IV and wheeled back to their radiology department. You would think that since I work in Radiology, I’d be used to everything, but I was a little nervous. I’m usually the one on the outside of the scanner, not on the inside. I asked the tech what to expect, and she said that once she pushed the contrast through, it would feel like I peed in my pants.

The exam started and they took some pictures before they pushed the contrast through my IV. Then they administered the contrast, faster than I expected, and sure enough, I felt a very warm sensation.  If she hadn’t warned me, I would’ve thought that I lost control of my bladder! The feeling didn’t last long, and nothing about the scan hurt. I could feel the contrast going through the IV into my arm, but there was no pain. I had to hold my breath for some of the pictures and breathe normally for others. The scan only took a few minutes; then I was wheeled back into my room in the ER to wait for the results. Thankfully, I did not have a blood clot.

As a parent, we always want to know how and what our children is feeling. We want to make sure they are not in pain, and we want to keep them from being scared. Sometimes when we ask our kids what something feels like, it’s hard for them to describe certain things. So in sharing this, I hope I can ease someone’s curiosity about how a CT with contrast feels.

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About the author: Alex Towbin

Alex is a radiologist and the Neil D. Johnson Chair of Radiology Informatics. In this role, he helps to manage the information systems used by the Radiology department. Clinically, Alex is the Assistant Director of thoracoabdominal imaging. His research interests include liver disease, liver tumors, inflammatory bowel disease, and appendicitis.