Waiting for CT scan results can be a source of worry because you do not know when you will get results. CT scan results can become available at different times depending on many factors. Your doctor may call you with results, especially if serious.
What determines how fast the CT will be read?
The priority of the CT order- stat versus routine is important for timing of results. Your location at the time of the CT order is also important. The timing of results will depend on whether your located in the emergency room, hospital wards or coming from home for a CT appointment.
CT scans are read by radiologists who are specially trained doctors in imaging. They often have many other scans to read of varying priorities. Radiologists prioritize emergency and stat exams, followed by inpatients or hospitalized patients and then routine outpatients.
Radiologists are busy with scans as volumes have been going up. This is because imaging has become so important in medicine for diagnosis and follow up. Sometimes there can be backlogs, especially in the routine outpatient imaging. This can cause some delay in the scan being read.
How fast will the CT scan be read?
Patients who have scans ordered from the emergency room and with stat priority will often have reads available within an hour. Inpatients or hospitalized patients will usually also be read within hours or sometimes faster. Outpatients are more variable as this depends on how many other routine scans there are. Generally, a routine outpatient CT will usually be read within a day with some exceptions.
What if the CT scan results are serious?
If the CT scan results are serious, then the radiologist will often call the ordering doctor directly. This can be within an hour if ordered stat or from the ER. Stat exam orders can also be done on outpatients who go home after the exam. This becomes especially important if the patient is no longer under medical care.
If your exam is routine and outpatient, then this may take longer. The ordering doctor will then call you if you need treatment or to be seen in the emergency room. More routine results may be discussed at your next office visit or depending on your doctors preference for providing results.
How about if you don’t get your results?
No news does not necessarily mean good news, especially if your feeling ill. It’s possible your scan has not been read. It is best to call your doctor or to be seen in the emergency room to be safe. There can be serious findings on CTs of patients who are routine outpatients at times. Do not wait for CT results if your not feeling well or there has been a change for the worst.
CT scan results will become available at different times depending on many factors outlined above. You can always call your doctor or the radiology department to see if the results have become available. Most importantly, you should not assume no news is good news. You should always seek medical care if your feeling ill.