CT Upper Extremity (Shoulder, Humerus, Elbow, Forearm, Wrist, Hand or Fingers)


What is a CT of the Upper Extremity and what does it do?

A CT of the Upper Extremities is an exam that takes very thin slice (2-5mm) images of a specified portion of your arm(s), from the shoulder girdle to the tips of your fingers. These are far more detailed than plain x-rays and allow imaging in range of different angles as well as 3D reformation. This allows more accurate diagnosis of things such as fractures, dislocations, and other injuries or conditions.

Who performs the test?

The exam itself is performed by a Radiologic Technologist RT (R). These technologists are nationally registered with the A.R.R.T. (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists) and licensed through the state of Florida in the use of diagnostic equipment and procedures. Also, the technologist performing your CT scan has additional CT specific training and registration.

Where does it take place?

CT scans are performed in the hospital radiology department.

How long does it take?

An Upper Extremity CT takes about 5-10 minutes.
However, you may need to allow extra time for each procedure in case of delays or the occasional need for additional images

What you can do to make it a success?

Please bring your orders with you when you arrive for your scheduled appointment. Be sure to follow any preparatory instructions you were given.

You can help assure a successful, comfortable procedure by carefully following the instructions of your physician, the radiologist and the radiologic technologist. Be sure to answer any questions they may ask about your general health. For example, tell them if you are pregnant, diabetic, and/or have anyallergy to foods or medications. Let them know if you have been given the contrast in the past and if you had any side effects. Give them a complete list of medications you may be taking now, including non-prescription medication. Some medications may not be given in conjunction with the contrast. Also, please indicate if you are presently being treated for an infection in any part of your body or are receiving treatments for a condition, such as cancer or dialysis.

What to do before your exam?

It is recommended that you wear loose, comfortable clothing for the exam. You will need to remove dentures, glasses, hearing aids, earrings, hairpins and any other object that may be in the path of the x-ray beam. To reduce the risk of valuables being lost, it is recommended that jewelry and pins be removed prior to entering the exam room or simply left at home.

If contrast is to be given, you are asked not to eat anything 3-4 hours prior to your exam, or drink anything at least 1 hour prior. This is to insure that in the rare occasion that you become nauseous from the contrast, there is nothing in your stomach that might be brought up and be a choking hazard.

To reduce radiation, the Upper Extremity is normally not scanned entirely, but rather at a specified point of interest along the extremity. It is recommended that x-rays are done prior to scanning in order to identify the problem area. If prior x-rays were done at another facility, please bring a copy of them with you when you come for your CT appointment.

What happens during your exam?

You will be asked to lie down on a table attached to the CT scanner. The scanner itself is a large doughnut shaped machine with a large hole in the middle that the table will slide through. Your position on the table depends on the body part being scanned, but a majority of the time you will be asked to lie on your back, with your head on a cushion, with your feet pointing toward the scanner.

If you are to receive contrast, the technologist will then start an IV. Once it is in place, they will then take preliminary scans of the area in question. These are called scout images and are used to map the area for testing. During this, you will feel the table move, but you will not be touched. The scanner will, with recorded messages, ask you to take a breath before each scan, and hold it for the duration of the scan (normally 12-13 seconds). For some patients, even this small amount of time is extremely difficult. This is understandable and we will not ask more than you are capable of.

Once the technologist completes the scout images, he or she will proceed with the primary exam. If contrast is to be given, it will then be administered through your IV with either a pressure injector or pushed by hand with a syringe, depending on the test. In some patients, the actual injection can be associated with a sensation of warmth, heat or flushing. These feelings are transient and typically pass quickly after the injection.

Images will then be obtained. The table will once again move, with the only difference being a slightly longer scan time. It is important that during this scanning you remain as still as possible so that the scanner may get the best possible images. This will help to insure the most accurate diagnosis possible.

When the scans are complete, the table will be positioned out of the scanner and you will be allowed to sit up. If you received an IV, it will be removed and a bandage placed over the injection site. If needed, the technologist will relay any further instructions for you at the time and you’ll be free to leave.

The entire procedure normally takes 5-10 minutes. Contrast studies may take an additional 10-15 minutes. If an oral contrast is required, you will also need an additional 45-50 minutes prior to the test.

If your physician has asked you to bring the films or disk of your exam with you to your next office visit, please let the technologist know. Please be aware that it may take 20-30 minutes to prepare the images for transfer, so schedule your time accordingly.

What to do after your exam?

The Radiologist will review your exam and relay his findings to your physician. This usually takes 1-2 days. In the case of an emergency or life threatening results, you physician will be contacted right away and you will probably be asked to stay with us until he or she is spoken with.

Unless you have other tests scheduled, you may resume your previous diet.

Contact Information:

Hospital (main operator): (850) 526-2200
CT Department: (850) 718-2583
Radiology Department (at hospital): (850) 718-2580