Emergency Body CT > Technique > Overview


Clinical assessment of the abdomen is often difficult in the acute setting. The physical exam and laboratory values may be nonspecific and may only partially elucidate the underlying etiology. Conventional radiologic studies add to the clinical picture but are usually inadequate for providing insight into the pathologic process. For these reasons, computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nuclear medicine have provided the means by which the physician can more clearly discover the process at hand. The speed and relative low cost of CT have made it the primary modality used for rapid evaluation of significant trauma or inflammatory processes of the abdomen and pelvis. CT also, is often used to survey the abdomen and pelvis in cases where the clinical history and exam are limited or non-specific, but pathology is still suspected.

In cases where the history and clinical findings have provided enough information to allow the clinician to propose a diagnosis, the CT can be tailored to answer specific clinical questions. CT is most effective when used to answer specific clinical questions.

Several general techniques are employed when performing abdominopelvic CT. Oral contrast agents containing Barium or Iodine are used to opacify the GI tract. This allows the radiologist to better evaluate the GI tract for pathology and to distinguish bowel from other structures. Intravenous (IV) contrast agents are used to opacify blood vessels, to enhance the solid abdominal organs, and to improve image contrast between lesions and normal structures. Next, review the different classes of contrast agents, adverse reactions, and treatment protocols that may be encountered in their use.


© Copyright Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia 2013