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CT Soft Tissue Neck

What is a CT of the Soft Tissues of the Neck?

CT of the soft tissues of the neck is a diagnostic imaging study that combines the use of a high-tech rotating X-ray machine, a contrast dye, and sophisticated computer analysis to produce high-resolution 3D images of the soft tissues in your neck region from the base of your skull to the top of the chest.

Uses of CT of the Soft Tissues of the Neck

Abnormal conditions that can be identified by CT of the soft tissues of the neck include:

  • Parotid or submandibular salivary gland infections or tumors
  • Cancer of the head and neck
  • Abnormal masses, abscesses, or growths in the neck
  • Tongue masses or lesions
  • Foreign bodies in the airway
  • Vocal cord infections or tumors
  • Injury to neck blood vessels

How does a CT scan Work?

In the CT machine, an X-ray tube circles around your neck taking pictures that capture narrow slices of your neck at a time. This eliminates the overlap or shadow caused by surrounding tissues, which occurs with normal X-rays. The contrast medium injected into the vein further enhances the image of the blood vessels and tissues as it circulates in the bloodstream. The high-resolution images which are produced can be viewed individually or added together to create 3D images of the soft tissues of the neck.

Preparation for CT of the Soft Tissues of the Neck

  • Inform your doctor regarding any health conditions, previous surgeries, the likelihood of pregnancy, and any allergies.
  • Leave all jewelry at home. Wear loose-fitting comfortable clothing that does not contain any metal fasteners, or you may be asked to wear a hospital gown.
  • If a contrast dye is used, you will need to avoid eating or drinking a few hours before the procedure.
  • You can continue to take your regular medications unless otherwise specified.

Procedure for CT of the Soft Tissues of the Neck

The procedure for CT of the soft tissues of the neck involves the following basic steps:

  • You will be placed comfortably on a movable scanning table.
  • An IV line will be placed into your arm to inject the contrast material.
  • The scanning table will be slid into the center of the CT scanner.
  • Lines of light will be projected onto your body to ensure you are in the correct position.
  • The table will then slowly move through the machine as the scanning is performed.
  • You will be asked to hold your breath and avoid movement to ensure high-quality images.
  • You may hear clicking, buzzing, or whirring sounds as the internal parts of the CT scanner move around you during the procedure.
  • Once the imaging process is complete, the table will be slid out of the CT scanner, the IV line will be removed, and a dressing applied at the line insertion site.
  • The procedure will usually be completed within 10 minutes.

What happens after CT of the Soft Tissues of the Neck? 

You can return to your routine activities and resume your normal diet immediately after the procedure. Drinking plenty of water during the first 24 hours to help remove the contrast dye from your body is recommended. If sedation was provided to help you relax, you may have to wait until the effects of sedation wear off before returning to your routine activities. A radiologist or trained doctor will analyze the images and send the report to your doctor, who will share the results with you.

Risks of CT of the Soft Tissues of the Neck

  • There is a minimal risk of cancer from excessive or repeated exposure to radiation.
  • There may be an allergic reaction to the contrast dye. These reactions are usually mild and can be easily controlled with medication.

Benefits of CT of the Soft Tissue of the Neck

  • Painless and non-invasive procedure
  • Produces highly detailed images of the tissues of the neck and associated anatomical structure
  • Less sensitive to patient movement as compared to an MRI
  • Fast and simple procedure that can detect internal injuries or abnormalities quickly