What Does a CT with Contrast Feel Like?

My daughter has had a few CT scans due to complications from cystic fibrosis.  She was very young and had to be put under general anesthesia, but I never knew what a CT with contrast felt like–until recently. In October, I gave birth to my second daughter via cesarean section. About 5 days later, I was experiencing intense chest pain and my doctor told me to go to the emergency room because I was at risk for a blood clot due to my recent surgery.

The exam of choice to rule out blood clot was a CT scan with contrast. I arrived at the emergency room, was given an IV and wheeled back to their radiology department. You would think that since I work in Radiology, I’d be used to everything, but I was a little nervous. I’m usually the one on the outside of the scanner, not on the inside. I asked the tech what to expect, and she said that once she pushed the contrast through, it would feel like I peed in my pants.

The exam started and they took some pictures before they pushed the contrast through my IV. Then they administered the contrast, faster than I expected, and sure enough, I felt a very warm sensation.  If she hadn’t warned me, I would’ve thought that I lost control of my bladder! The feeling didn’t last long, and nothing about the scan hurt. I could feel the contrast going through the IV into my arm, but there was no pain. I had to hold my breath for some of the pictures and breathe normally for others. The scan only took a few minutes; then I was wheeled back into my room in the ER to wait for the results. Thankfully, I did not have a blood clot.

As a parent, we always want to know how and what our children is feeling. We want to make sure they are not in pain, and we want to keep them from being scared. Sometimes when we ask our kids what something feels like, it’s hard for them to describe certain things. So in sharing this, I hope I can ease someone’s curiosity about how a CT with contrast feels.

Sarah Kaupp

About the Author: Sarah Kaupp

Sarah is a Reading Room Assistant in the Radiology Department. She and her husband Keith have been married for 10+ years and have 2 beautiful daughters named Sarhea (Suh-ray-uh) and Kelby. Sarhea has Cystic Fibrosis and Sarah is very involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She is also the parent advisor on the Image Gently Steering Committee.

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  1. Jess October 13, 00:54
    Thanks for posting Sarah! Beautiful picture by the way :)