Sinus CT Scan

Sinus CT scan is the best non invasive way to image the paranasal sinuses.  These are hollow cavities in your facial bones around the nasal cavity.  The sinuses connect to the nasal cavity through small openings.

Why is a CT scan done?

These are most commonly done to diagnose sinusitis or inflammation of the sinuses.  CT scans of the sinuses are done to define the anatomy before surgery.  These CTs are done to evaluate growths and cancers of the sinuses.

What is the CT scan like?

A CT scanner has a donut like opening with a short tunnel.  You will lay on a table while the ring like gantry with X-ray detector and X-ray tubes rotates around you.   A computer processes the information in a separate room where the technologist operates the equipment.  He can see and talk to you through a microphone.

How do you prepare for a CT of the sinuses?

You may be asked to change into a hospital gown.  Metal objects like glasses, jewelry and glasses may have to be removed.  Any possibility of pregnancy or previous allergic reactions needs to be reported if your having contrast administered.

What to expect with a Sinus CT

Sinus CTs are painless and take less then 10 minutes to perform.  Contrast is usually not administered for routine sinus CTs.  An iv may be placed into your arm if your doctor ordered contrast administration.

As you enter the scanner, you may see lights on your body and hear the CT scanner working.    If you have claustrophobia or difficulty lying still, the exam can be difficult.  Your doctor can help by giving you medication to better tolerate the procedure.

Normal sinus CT versus abnormal CT

A normal sinus CT will show clear paranasal sinuses.  These are called frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid and maxillary.  The openings of the sinuses will be visible and open.  Any anatomical variations will be seen. We can also see the nasal cavity, throat, skull base, and part of the brain.

An abnormal CT of the sinuses will show thickened sinuses, fluid, cysts or masses.  We can see the paranasal sinus walls which can be eroded or thickened from infection or tumor.  We can also see the tissues surrounding the sinuses and any abnormalities.

What does a sinus CT show?

Sinus CT show abnormalities of the sinuses like infection, inflammation, tumors, anatomic variants, sinus opening blockages, and abnormalities of the tissues surrounding the sinuses like the throat, nasal cavity, and lower brain.

Sinus infection on CT

Findings which indicate infection on CT need to be correlated with the patient symptoms.  Many patients with no symptoms can have findings in the sinuses which look like infection.

Infections can have sinus thickening, fluid, and blockage of the sinus openings. Some sinus infections originate from infected teeth. Sinus infection can be associated with nasal infection.

Who reads Sinus CT and when will I get the report?

A specially trained doctor called a radiologist will read the scan and issue a report to your doctor.  He will report any findings which are abnormal in your sinuses.  He will also report any findings he sees on the scan that are outside the sinuses.  The report will usually be available within 24 hours in many practices.

Sinus CT scan: summary

Sinus CT scans allow a non invasive rapid way to image the sinuses around your nose.  We can diagnose all types of abnormalities like infections, chronic inflammation and tumors.  Sinus CTs can provide your doctor important information that is needed for appropriate treatment.


Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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