Computed tomography (CT) scan

When you get your CT scan at a Montage Health location, you’ll benefit from qualified staff, advanced equipment, and proper procedures that help ensure accurate results. Our hospital, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, holds accreditation in CT imaging from the American College of Radiology, which sets nationwide testing standards.

What is a CT exam?

CT technology uses X-rays and a computer to create many images of the inside of your body. Also called a CAT scan, a CT test shows your organs, bones, soft tissues, and blood vessels in more clarity and detail than an X-ray test. The images may help your doctor diagnose a condition, plan treatment, or see how well a treatment is working.

Types of CT scans

Your doctors can use CT imaging for many tests, including:

  • Angiogram – Checks the health of your blood vessels
  • Calcium score scan – Looks for buildup of calcium-filled plaque in your heart arteries
  • CT colonography – Examines your large intestine for polyps (lumps) that could be cancer
  • CT lung scan – Looks for early signs of lung cancer in current or former heavy smokers

Before scheduling a CT scan

When you receive a referral for a CT exam, tell your doctor if you:

  • Could be pregnant
  • Have a medical condition, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or a thyroid problem

What to expect

Learn what to expect before, during, and after your CT exam.


To make sure your test goes smoothly and the results are accurate, you should:

  • Follow any instructions you may receive on fasting (avoiding food or drink) before the test
  • Leave jewelry, hairpins, watches, or any accessories with metal at home. If you wear glasses or hearing aids, you may need to remove them before the exam
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may receive a gown to change into for the test

Contrast dye

Depending on the type of exam, your care team may use a special dye to make certain organs or parts of the body show up better in the images. You might swallow this dye or get it through an intravenous (IV) line. After receiving it, you may feel warm or have a metallic taste in your mouth for a few minutes.


You’ll lie on an exam table that will move into the CT scanner. A technologist may use pillows or gentle straps to help you stay in the right position throughout the test.

During the scan

The exam table will move slowly through the machine as it takes pictures for about 30 minutes. Keep still to ensure clear images. You may need to hold your breath a few times, depending on the part of the body under examination.

After a CT test

If your test uses contrast dye, your care team may ask you to stay for a short time after the test to monitor you for side effects, such as itching or swelling. If your test doesn’t use contrast dye, you can likely return to your normal activities right away.

Radiation safety

Trust your care team to protect you by using the lowest possible dose of radiation needed for clear CT images. Montage Health imaging locations:

  • Provide breast and thyroid shields to reduce radiation exposure to those areas
  • Have dose-reduction technology on CT scanners so your care team can customize the dose for your procedure

Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula uses less radiation on average than other Bay Area hospitals, according to the ACR’s National Dose Registry.

Getting test results

If you have an online MyChart account, you’ll likely see your test results in the patient portal within 24 hours. Your doctor will call to explain them and discuss next steps. Wait until you talk to your doctor before trying to understand what they mean.

Talk to your doctor

You’ll need a healthcare provider’s referral to receive radiology and imaging services from Montage Health. Once you have a doctor’s order, call (831) 649-7231 to schedule your test.

Sign up for MyChart

Manage your health easily and securely through our free MyChart patient portal. You can:

  • Access medical records, test results, and test prep instructions
  • Contact your care team
  • Get cost estimates
  • Pay bills

Sign up

Learn more about MyChart

Related locations

Choose an imaging location near you in Monterey County to see its available tests and hours of operation. Some locations offer convenient, extended hours for MRI and ultrasound exams.