Knee CT scan
A computed tomography (CT) scan of the knee is test that uses x-rays to make detailedimages of the knee.
CAT scan - knee; Computed axial tomography scan - knee; Computed tomography scan - knee
How the Test is Performed
You will lie on a narrow table that slides into the center of the CT scanner.
When you are inside the scanner, the machine's x-ray beam rotates around you. (Modern "spiral" scanners can perform the exam without stopping.)
A computer makes several images of the body area, called slices. These images can be stored, viewed on a monitor, or printed on film. Models of the body area in 3-D can be created byadding the slices together.
You must stay still during the exam, because movement blurs the pictures. You mayhave tohold your breath for short periods of time.
The scan should take less than 20 minutes.
How to Prepare for the Test
Some exams require a special dye, called contrast, to be injected intoyour body before the test. Contrast helps certain areas show up better on the x-rays.
- Contrast can be given through a vein (IV) in your hand or forearm. If contrast is used, you may also be asked not to eat or drink anything for 4-6 hours before the test.
- Let your doctor know if you have ever had a reaction to contrast. You may need to take medicines before the test to avoid this problem.
- Before receiving the contrast, tell your health care provider if you take the diabetes medicine metformin (Glucophage). You may need to take extra steps if you are taking this medicine.
Too much weight can cause damage to the scanner's working parts. Talk to your doctor about the weight limit before the test if youweigh more than 300 pounds.
You willneed toremove jewelry and wear a hospital gown during the CT exam.
How the Test Will Feel
Some people may be uncomfortablelying on the hard table.
Contrast given through an IV may cause:
- Slight burning feeling
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Warm flushing of the body
Thesefeelings are normal and usually go away within a few seconds.
Why the Test is Performed
A CT scan can quickly createmore detailed pictures of the knee than standard x-rays. The test may be used to detect:
- Abscess or infection
- Broken bone
- Examine fracturs and pattern of fractures
- The cause of pain or other problems in the knee joint (usually when MRI can't be done)
- Masses and tumors, including cancer
A CT scan may also be used to guide a surgeon to the right area during a biopsy.
Results are considered normal if no problems are seen.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may be due to:
- Abscess (collection of puss)
- Broken bone
- Bone tumors or cancer
Risks of CT scans include:
- Exposureto radiation
- Allergyto contrast dye
CT scans give offmore radiation than regular x-rays. Many x-rays or CT scans over time may increase your risk for cancer. However, the risk from any one scan is small. You and your doctor should discuss this risk compared with the value ofan accurate diagnosis for the problem.
Let your doctor know if you have ever had an allergic reaction to injected contrast dye.
- The most common type of contrast contains iodine. You may havenausea or vomiting,sneezing, itching,or hivesif you have this an iodine allergy.
- If you need to have this kind of contrast, your doctor may give you antihistamines (such as Benadryl) or steroids before the test.
- The kidneys help remove iodine out of the body. You may need extra fluids after the test to help rid your body of the iodine if you havekidney disease or diabetes.
Rarely, the dye may cause a serious allergic response called anaphylaxis. This can be life-threatening. Notify the scanner operator right away if you have any trouble breathing during the test. Scannershave an intercom and speakers so the operator can hear you at all times.
DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drezs Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 23.
Grainger RG, Thomsen HS, Morcos SK, Koh DM, Roditi G. Intravascular contrast media for radiology, CT, and MRI. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 2.
Shaw AS, Dixon AK. Multidetector computed tomography. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 4.
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.