General Body CT

Computed tomography (CT) has transformed medicine. This advanced X-ray technique allows the radiologist to view bones, organs, blood vessels and general abdominal areas of the body in extraordinarily fine detail. It is a fast, painless and noninvasive way to assess for injury or conditions that may require follow-up care.


CT generates a series of X-ray images and uses advanced computer technology to construct cross-sectional views of bones, organs and blood vessels in extraordinarily fine detail and from multiple angles. A technologist will conduct the exam and perform the computerized function from a small monitoring room next to the open room where the CT scanner is located. The images help radiologists screen for health conditions or evaluate health concerns at an earlier stage.

No. It is painless and noninvasive. Your exam may require that you receive an IV contrast agent to make your vessels and tissues more visible on the CT images. For the scan, the technologist will position you comfortably on the table. You will need to lie still and hold your breath for a few seconds during the scan because any movement may distort the quality of the images.

It depends on which CT study your physician has ordered. Most scans are quick, lasting a few seconds to several minutes. Depending on the type of exam and preparation required, you may need to arrive 15 to 30 minutes early.

How you prepare for your CT scan depends on which part of the body is being examined. You will receive preparation instructions at the time of scheduling. 

Prophylaxis for those with a reaction to allergens other than CT contrast is not recommended. If you have had a reaction to CT IV contrast in the past you will be advised to have your CT scan at a hospital or other high level center.

A contrast agent, sometimes called a dye, is a liquid that makes certain tissues stand out more clearly during the exam. If a contrast agent is used, it will be injected into a vein, usually in the arm. The contrast agent will leave your body naturally within a few hours. If your exam requires a contrast agent, be sure to tell the technologist if you have any allergies to medication or food.

At Washington Radiology, a radiologist certified by the American Board of Radiology oversees the CT scan. The radiologist will be assisted by a technologist and/or a registered nurse who has extensive training in the use of CT. The care team will create a warm and welcoming environment to ensure your comfort and the highest-quality images. 

A board-certified radiologist at Washington Radiology will interpret your scan typically within 24 hours. The radiologist will dictate their findings and the report will be sent to your referring physician who ordered the CT scan. Your physician will contact you to share your exam results.

Yes. Before a CT scan, notify your referring physician, the Washington Radiology scheduling staff, the CT nurse, or the CT technologist if you are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, have allergies or are diabetic. Disclose if you have had any reactions to a previous contrast agent. 

Family members are not permitted in the CT scan room during the exam due to unnecessary radiography exposure. There is a comfortable reception area nearby where family members can wait.

MRI does not use X-rays and ionizing radiation like a CT scan. With a CT scan, X-rays and computer software are used to create 2D and 3D reconstructed images of the body. MRI involves sending electromagnetic waves, such as those used in radio transmission, in a safe magnetic environment. The body then sends tiny radio waves back to a computer recorder.

Because MRI and CT use entirely different techniques for mapping the body, the images show different characteristics of anatomy. Your physician, often in consultation with one of our radiologists, will determine which exam is best for you.

Preparing for Your Exam

Patient peace of mind starts with the right preparation. In addition to the written order from your physician, please bring any prior images or reports from outside Washington Radiology with you to your appointment, if related to the reason for your visit with us.

A list of locations where barium oral contrast and other exam preparations can be picked up is at the bottom of this page.  

Contrast Policy for CT Scans

Washington Radiology requires a creatinine lab result within 30 days before the CT scan for contrast patients who are 60 or older, are diabetic, take Metformin/any Metformin-drug combination, take medicine for high blood pressure, have kidney disease, have one kidney, have had kidney surgery, have had a kidney transplant, or are on dialysis. This is to ensure proper kidney function. Please fax the creatinine lab result to Washington Radiology before your appointment.

CT Premedication Protocol for Patients with Allergies to Food or Non-Contrast Products

Prophylaxis for those with a reaction to allergens other than CT contrast is not recommended. If you have had a reaction to CT IV contrast in the past you will be advised to have your CT scan at a hospital or other high level center.

You may consume the following clear liquids four hours before your CT scan:
  • Water
  • Coffee or tea (with sugar, but with no cream, milk and artificial whitener) 
  • Clear soft drinks
  • Consomm√©, or other clear soups that are strained
  • Clear fruit juices with no pulp, including apple, cranberry, grape and orange juice. 

IMPORTANT: Do not consume dairy products, Jell-O or solid food four hours before your appointment. Doing so may require rescheduling your appointment.

CT Scan with IV Contrast

Four hours before your exam, drink only clear liquids.

CT Scan of the Abdomen, Abdomen/Pelvis or Pelvis with IV Contrast and Barium Oral Contrast
  • Please arrive 30 minutes before your appointment. 
  • Oral contrast may be refrigerated, but do not add water or ice.

Morning Appointments:

  • At 9:00 p.m. the night before your examination, drink half a bottle of barium.
  • Four hours before your exam, drink only clear liquids.
  • Two hours before your exam, drink the remaining half of the bottle of barium.

Afternoon Appointments:

  • At 8:00 a.m. the day of your exam, drink half a bottle of barium.
  • Four hours before your exam, drink only clear liquids
  • Two hours before your exam, drink the remaining half of the bottle of barium.

Preparation Pickup

Washington Radiology preparations may be picked up at the following locations between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Please bring your written order to pick up your preparation. 

  • 2141 K St. NW., Suite 900, Washington, D.C., 20037
  • 10215 Fernwood Road, Suite 103, Bethesda, MD, 20817
  • 4445 Willard Ave., Suite 200, Chevy Chase, MD, 20815
  • 12505 Park Potomac Ave., Suite 120, Potomac, MD, 20854
  • 3022 Williams Drive, Suite 200, Fairfax, VA, 22031
  • 21351 Ridgetop Circle, Suite 100, Sterling, VA, 20166

If you have follow-up questions about the CT scan preparations, contact the Washington Radiology office where your exam is scheduled and ask to speak with the nurse.

Our Locations


Chevy Chase, MD


4445 Willard Avenue
Suite 200
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Washington, DC


2141 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Bethesda: MRI, CT


10215 Fernwood Road
Suite 40
Bethesda, MD 20817

Sterling, VA


21351 Ridgetop Circle
Sterling, VA 20166

Germantown: MRI, CT, XR


20410 Observation Drive
Suite 106
Germantown, MD 20876

Hagerstown, Trilogy II


1185 Imperial Drive
Suite 100
Hagerstown, MD 21740

Bel Air, Colonnade


100 Fulford Avenue
Bel Air, MD 21014

Salisbury, Sweetbay Drive


1820 Sweetbay Drive
Suite 102
Salisbury, MD 21804