A computed tomography (CT) scan of the pelvis is an imaging method that uses x-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the area between the hip bones. This part of the body is called the pelvic area.
Structures inside and near the pelvis include the bladder, prostate and other male reproductive organs, female reproductive organs, lymph nodes, and pelvic bones.
Single CT images are called slices. The images are stored on a computer, viewed on a monitor, or printed on film. Three-dimensional models of the body area can be created by stacking the slices together.
You are asked to lie on a narrow table that slides into the center of the CT scanner.
Once you are inside the scanner, the machine's x-ray beam rotates around you. You will not see the rotating x-ray beams.
You must be still during the exam, because movement causes blurred images. You may be told to hold your breath for short periods of time.
The scan should take less than 30 minutes.
Certain exams require a special dye. It is called contrast media. It has to be delivered into the body before the test starts. The contrast helps certain areas show up better on the x-rays.
Before receiving the contrast, tell your provider if you have kidney problems. You may not be able to get IV contrast if this is the case.
If you weigh more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms), find out if the CT machine has a weight limit. Too much weight can damage the scanner's working parts.
You will be asked to remove jewelry and wear a hospital gown during the study.
You may be asked to drink an oral contrast solution.
Some people may have discomfort from lying on the hard table.
Contrast given through an IV may cause:
These sensations are normal and most often go away within a few seconds.
CT rapidly creates detailed pictures of the body, including the pelvis and areas near the pelvis. The test may be used to diagnose or detect:
This test may also help:
Results are considered normal if the organs of the pelvis that are being examined are normal in appearance.
Abnormal results may be due to:
Risks of CT scans include:
CT scans do expose you to more radiation than regular x-rays. Having many x-rays or CT scans over time may increase your risk of cancer. But the risk from any one scan is small. You and your provider should weigh this risk against the benefits of getting a correct diagnosis for a medical problem.
Some people have allergies to contrast dye. Let your provider know if you have ever had an allergic reaction to injected contrast dye.
In rare cases, the dye causes a life-threatening allergic response called anaphylaxis. If you have any trouble breathing during the test, you should tell the scanner operator right away. Scanners come with an intercom and speakers, so the operator can hear you at all times.
Reviewed By: Jason Levy, MD, Northside Radiology Associates, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.