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During a CT scan, you're briefly exposed to ionizing radiation. The amount of radiation is greater than you would get during a plain X-ray because the CT scan gathers more detailed information. CT scans have not been shown to cause long-term harm, although there may be a very small potential to increase your risk of cancer.
CT scans have many benefits that outweigh this small potential risk. Doctors use the lowest dose of radiation possible to obtain the needed medical information. Also, newer, faster machines and techniques require less radiation than was previously used. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of your CT scan.
Tell your doctor if you're pregnant. Although the radiation from a CT scan is unlikely to injure your baby, your doctor may recommend another type of exam, such as ultrasound or MRI, to avoid exposing your baby to radiation.
In certain cases, your doctor may recommend you receive a special dye called a contrast material through a vein in your arm before your CT scan. Although rare, the contrast material can cause medical problems or allergic reactions.
Most reactions are mild and result in a rash or itchiness. In rare instances, an allergic reaction can be serious, even life-threatening. Tell your doctor if you've ever had a reaction to contrast material.
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