What You Need to Know About a Sinus CT Scan

Published on: June 4, 2023
A relaxed woman undergoing CT scan for sinuses.

If your primary care doctor or ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist has ordered a sinus CT scan, you may have some questions. What does a sinus CT scan cost? How is a CT scan of sinuses performed? What can be diagnosed from a sinus CT scan? Here is everything you need to know about this procedure.

The sinuses are the air-filled cavities that are behind the nose, cheekbones, and eyes. These spaces can be affected by inflammation, excessive mucus, tumors, fractures, and other abnormalities. To see inside these cavities, a sinus CT scan may be recommended for diagnosis and other purposes.

What is a Sinus CT Scan?

CT scan stands for a computed tomography scan, a type of X-ray imaging that creates a 3D picture of the desired area. A sinus CT scan is performed to look at the sinus cavities to find any abnormalities or signs of disease. The procedure uses many X-rays that are computerized to create a 3D image.

During a CT scan, sinus cavities are targeted to create “slices” of X-rays. Patients lie on the CT scanner and must hold very still while the machine takes the many pictures to avoid blurring the images. The scan itself only takes about 30 seconds, but the entire process usually lasts about 15 minutes.

How Do You Prepare for a Sinus CT Scan?

CT scans of the sinuses require you to lie on a flat table and lie very still during the test. You may be asked to remove any jewelry from around your head. For children or those who have trouble holding still, straps or pillows may be used to secure the head in a stable position.

Some sinus CT scans may require the patient to have a contrasting agent intravenously given before the test. This dye can help the scanner catch more detailed images. Those who will be given the contrasting agent may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking in the 4-6 hours before the test.

The contrast dye can have side effects, including a metallic taste in the mouth, a burning sensation, and a warm flushing sensation. These are normal effects of receiving contrast and they usually only last for a short period of time.

Some people do have poor reactions to contrast for CT scans. If you have an allergy to iodine, which is in many of the dyes used, you could experience hives, itching, sneezing, nausea, or vomiting. Taking an antihistamine or steroid may be recommended to avoid an allergic reaction.

Those who have diabetes or kidney problems should tell their provider before a sinus CT scan is performed with contrast. The iodine can be hard on the kidneys and extra fluids may be needed to minimize stress and strain when eliminating the contrast.

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What Can a CT Scan of Sinuses Show?

There are a few reasons why a sinus CT scan may be ordered by your doctor. This imaging shows a more detailed look than a traditional X-ray and it may be needed for diagnosis or to plan a sinus procedure. Some of the reasons CT scans of sinuses are performed include detecting or diagnosing:

  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Nasal polyps
  • Injuries or fractures after facial trauma
  • Epistaxis – chronic bloody noses
  • Tumors or masses inside the sinuses
  • Osteomyelitis – sinus bone infection
  • Birth defects inside the sinuses
  • Causes of vertigo

A CT scan of the sinuses can be used for both diagnosis and treatment. If a sinus surgery is scheduled, a sinus CT scan may be completed first to help the surgeon plan their procedure. Sinus surgeries can include septoplasty, nasal polyp removal, tumor removal, or balloon sinus surgeries.

How Much Does a Sinus CT Scan Cost?

The cost of a sinus CT scan can vary depending on the provider and whether or not contrast dye is used. Nationally, the cost of CT scans of the sinuses can range from $300-$700 up to thousands of dollars. Outpatient centers tend to cost less than inpatient facilities like hospitals.

Most healthcare insurance plans will cover at least part of the sinus CT scan cost. The out-of-pocket expense depends on your insurance plan coverage and whether or not you need to meet a deductible. To lower costs, you can check pricing for various imaging centers in your area.

How Soon Will You Get the Sinus CT Scan Results?

The images taken during a CT scan are ready for viewing within minutes, but your doctor will need to review them before they discuss the results. You may receive the results the same day or it could take several days before you hear from your doctor.
Sinus CT scan procedure.
Sinus CT scans can be a very useful tool for the diagnosis and treatment of sinus conditions. They are minimally-invasive tests that can be completed in a short visit to an imaging center. Talk to your doctor about the benefits of this test and what to expect during your procedure.

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