Post By
Gateway Diagnostic Imaging

May 6, 2024

Why did my healthcare provider order a CT scan if I had a head injury?

When you have any kind of injury to your head, your healthcare provider will likely recommend a CT scan (or computed tomography scan). 

That’s because head CT scans are an excellent tool for clearly and accurately creating images of your head and brain.

After a head injury, a head CT scan can show your provider exactly how severe the damage from your injury is, and it can help them create a plan for your care.

We’ll tell you everything you need to know about why your provider recommended a head CT, as well as what you can expect during the scan, and how you can understand your CT results.

What is a CT scan, and how does it work?

A CT scan is a sophisticated imaging technique that creates highly detailed, cross-sectional images of specific areas of your body. 

When it comes to the head, a CT scan can create incredibly detailed images of the brain and skull, which will give your provider lots of information about your injury. 

Here’s how it works. A CT machine looks like a large donut, with a moving table that slides you into the center of the machine, so it can take pictures of your head. 

As you’re moved through the scanner, X-rays pass through your body from various angles, and then a computer creates images of the results. 

Why are CT scans useful for diagnosing head injuries?

Head injuries can range from mild concussions to severe trauma, affecting structures within the skull in complex ways. 

Head CT scans stand out because they can quickly and accurately provide detailed images of the skull, brain, and blood vessels.

A CT scan can be performed and interpreted quickly, which allows for rapid decision-making in emergency situations. 

When your healthcare provider can assess you quickly, it can help you get treatment sooner, which is especially important when dealing with potential swelling, bleeding, or other critical conditions within the skull.

Also, the level of detail in CT images helps in identifying fractures, bleeding (hemorrhages), blood clots (hematomas), bruised brain tissue (contusions), and swelling. These are conditions that require precise identification to tailor the most effective treatment plan. 

Unlike other imaging techniques, a CT scan can easily differentiate between types of tissue and density within the head, making it an indispensable tool in the assessment and management of head injuries.

Why your healthcare provider recommended a head CT scan after a head injury

After any head injury, many providers choose to order a head CT scan, since it can tell your provider a lot of info about your injury. 

We’ll look at why your provider ordered a head CT, at how your results could affect your diagnosis, and at how a CT scan informs your treatment plan.

Why should I get a CT scan after a head injury?

Understand that a head injury can be as mild as a bump on the skull or as severe as a traumatic brain injury. 

Regardless of how minor it may seem, underlying issues such as internal bleeding, swelling, or fractures can pose serious health risks if not identified and treated promptly. 

A CT scan is one of the most efficient ways to get a clear picture inside your head. 

Head CTs can detect conditions that might not be immediately apparent, providing an accurate assessment of your injury, and identifying any hidden damage early.

How will my provider use my head CT results to tell how severe my head injury is?

The images produced by a CT scan can offer a detailed view of the brain, skull, and blood vessels, enabling your healthcare provider to assess the extent of your head injury accurately. 

By examining these images, your healthcare team can identify any bleeding, swelling, blood clots, or fractures that may have resulted from the injury. These findings are important in helping to determine the severity of your head injury. 

The CT scan results provide a roadmap that guides your provider in classifying the injury as mild, moderate, or severe, based on the type and extent of the damage observed.

How can a head CT scan help guide my treatment plan?

A head CT scan is invaluable in helping your healthcare provider to create a treatment plan that’s tailored to your specific needs.

For example, if your scan reveals internal bleeding or swelling, your provider might decide on a course of treatment that could include medication to reduce swelling. 

Depending on your CT results, your provider may also monitor your condition for changes, or in more severe cases they may suggest more direct interventions. 

Your head CT scan gives your healthcare provider the necessary information to make smart decisions about the best approach to your treatment.

Radiologic technician smiling at mature female patient lying on a CT Scan bed

Getting a CT scan for a head injury

There are a few basic things to keep in mind before your CT scan, like how you should get ready for your scan, and what to expect as someone with a head injury.

Let’s take a closer look at what happens before, during, and after a head CT scan.

How should I prepare for a CT scan of my head?
Preparing for a head CT is pretty easy. Typically, you won’t need to follow any special dietary restrictions before the scan.

It’s important to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your appointment, which can make your scan easier and more accurate.

You might be asked to remove any hair accessories, jewelry, or eyewear that could interfere with the imaging.

Also, be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you have any allergies, or if there’s a possibility you might be pregnant.

What should I expect before, during, and after a CT scan?

Before the scan, you’ll change into a provided gown, and remove any metal objects that could affect the scan’s quality. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask any last-minute questions to ensure you’re fully comfortable with the process.

During the scan, you’ll lie down on a table that slides into the CT machine, which is shaped like a large doughnut. The machine is mostly quiet, and you’ll be able to communicate with the technician through an intercom system.

It’s important to stay as still as possible during the scan to ensure clear images are captured. The entire process usually takes only a few minutes, during which the machine will take several images of your head from different angles.

After the scan, you can typically resume your normal activities immediately, and most people experience no side effects from the scan itself. You’ll be free to leave the imaging center shortly after your scan is completed.

If I have a head injury, what can an imaging center do to make me comfortable during a CT scan?

Imaging centers are equipped to make your CT scan as comfortable as possible, especially if you’re dealing with a head injury, and staff members are trained to assist individuals who may be experiencing discomfort or anxiety.

If lying flat on the table is challenging, they can provide pillows or padding to help position you more comfortably.

Your comfort and well-being are the imaging center’s top priorities, so don’t hesitate to communicate your needs, and the center’s staff will do everything they can to help you.

When will I get my CT scan results? Who will interpret my results?

The turnaround time for CT scan results can vary, but most people receive their results within a few days, depending on the imaging center.

A radiologist, which is a doctor specialized in interpreting medical images, will review your CT scan to identify any abnormalities or signs of injury to your head.

After analyzing the images, the radiologist will compile a report detailing their findings, and send the report to your healthcare provider.

Your provider will schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss the findings with you, answer your questions, and explain the next steps.

What can I expect after I get my head CT results back?

Your healthcare provider will explain what the images reveal about your head injury.

If your results show any areas of concern, such as swelling, bleeding, or fractures, your provider will discuss the significance of these findings and what they mean for your health.

This conversation is an important opportunity for you to ask questions and express any concerns you might have.

How do CT scan results influence treatment plans for head injuries?

The results of your head CT provide a detailed picture of the injury, which helps your healthcare provider make informed decisions about your care.

This could include medication to manage symptoms, additional imaging scans, or other interventions tailored to address the specific issues identified in the scan.

Your provider’s primary goal is to create a treatment plan that addresses your unique needs and promotes the best possible outcome for your health.

How to schedule your CT scan with us

When you get your scan at one of our imaging centers, we’ll make sure you have access to affordable, high-quality medical imaging from specialized radiologists and certified technologists.

Reach out to a Gateway imaging center near you, and schedule your CT appointment, today.

Ready to Get Started?

Get impeccable quality and patient savings with Gateway Diagnostic Imaging.

Find A Location Near You

Find A Location

Request An Appointment

Appointment Form