ZocdocAnswersWhen is a whole body CT scan needed?

Question

When is a whole body CT scan needed?

I feel sore all the time. They've done many tests on me and suggested a whole body CT scan. Is this needed? I don't have lupus is what they told me.

Answer

You should definitely think carefully before having a whole body CT scan. A whole body CT scan will expose you to a significant amount of radiation, and this may increase your risk of a cancer later in life. Therefore, the test should not be done lightly, but only if your doctors feel that this is the next most important step in your evaluation. The role of a whole body CT scan in working up a problem like soreness is limited, especially if you do not have any other symptoms. A whole body CT scan would be most useful if your doctors were worried (either from symptoms or from some laboratory or radiology tests they have already done) about the possibility of an undetected cancer or tumor. If, on the other hand, the concern is more for looking for inflammation (say in the muscles), then a CT scan is not the best test for this. MRI would be more sensitive for inflammation of muscles or bones, for example, and numerous other laboratory tests could also be used to look at different types of inflammation. I suggest talking carefully with your primary care doctor before proceeding directly to a whole body CT scan.

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