CT scans are used to diagnose disease throughout the entire body. CT scans are obtained on patients of all ages and patient conditions. CT scans can range from being normal to having very serious or life threatening results.
CT scans are read by radiology physicians who issue a written report. The radiologist will often call the ordering doctor if the results of the CT scan are serious or life threatening.
Your doctor will then call you or see you in person to discuss the results. Many clinics and hospitals now allow patients to see their CT results on the internet via secure portals.
How will I know if my CT scan results are serious?
In most cases, your doctor will discuss the results of the CT and their significance with you. If there is anything serious or life threatening, he will let you know. Your doctor will also let you know if you need urgent or specialist treatment for your condition.
In some cases, you may see the report yourself through an electronic portal. While the language may not be completely understandable, you may see some concerning words in the report like mass, cancer, bleeding etc.
What happens if my CT scan results are serious?
If the results are serious, your doctor may call you shortly after the results are available to discuss. This is particularly true if you require urgent treatment for your results. He may refer you to a specialist like a surgeon or ask you to go to the emergency room.
How soon do doctors receive CT scan results if serious?
This depends on many factors. For example, if you are in the emergency room, your CT scan results will typically be available within an hour.
Same goes for a CT result that was ordered as a stat exam by your doctor even if you are not in the emergency room.
A patient in the hospital may see the results of their CT scan within hours of you completing it.
An outpatient ordered routinely may take a day or longer. Sometimes the volume of tests to read is high and there may be a backup.
Does a CT scan mean something serious?
Not necessarily. CT scans are done for many indications. CT scans are often normal. That means there is no structural or anatomic problem on the scan to explain your symptoms. This does not mean there is nothing wrong with your health however.
What are abnormal findings on a CT scan?
Abnormal findings on a CT scan mean that your scan is not within the range of normal in the radiologist’s experience. An abnormal scan can mean that there is a benign abnormality or it could mean there is a life threatening condition which can lead to death without treatment.
What happens if CT scan shows cancer?
We usually need additional testing like blood tests, biopsies, and additional imaging tests to be sure you have cancer. We cannot know for sure from one CT scan although the suspicion for cancer may be high depending on what it shows. Usually a referral to an oncologist will be given when there is suspicion for cancer on a scan.
Will a radiologist tell you if something is wrong?
Usually not. The radiologist may discuss the case with your doctor if there is suspicion for cancer. Your doctor will then discuss the scan with you.
How long does it take a radiologist to read a CT scan?
This depends on many factors. A normal scan on a young healthy patient may take under 10 minutes. A complex scan on an older patient with cancer and other conditions may take much longer.
Would you see a tumor on a CT scan?
Yes, we can often see many tumors on a CT scan but not all.
Does a CT scan pick up all cancers?
No it does not. There are some cancers which we can not see or are diagnosed using non imaging tests like gastrointestinal endoscopy, biopsies, or blood tests.
CT Scan Results If Serious: summary
Serious CT scan results will be communicated in a written radiologist report. In some cases, the radiologist will call your doctor directly to discuss the case. Your doctor may then discuss with you over the phone or see you in person. If your condition is urgent or life threatening, you may receive a phone call shortly after the results of the CT are available to make sure you get prompt and appropriate treatment.