What scan is used for stomach pain?

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What scan is used for stomach pain?

 What Scan Is Used For Stomach Pain? 

Despite being a common condition, stomach pain is not always the result of an upset tummy. You may have a hidden abnormality that needs medical attention. So, if you have acute stomach pain accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, fatigue, fever, urinary problems, constipation, bloating, or heartburn, your doctor is likely to recommend a scan. It is to locate the cause of your stomach pain and ensure the appropriate treatment.

Now to answer your question about what scan is used for stomach pain, a Computer Tomography or CT scan is the most prominent name. Doctors consider it the gold-standard diagnostic method for determining the reason for stomach pain, especially during emergencies. However, your doctor may recommend an Endoscopy, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), or Ultrasound, depending on your physical condition, medical history, and your doctor’s study.

Do you want to know more about the scans for stomach pain? If so, sit back, Chill, and read till the end.

What Is A CT Scan for Stomach Pain?

A CT scan is a quick, non-invasive, and painless diagnostic process, typically conducted on an outpatient basis. The procedure involves a series of x-ray beams scanning images of your stomach from various angles. This scan looks for the size, shape, and consistency of your stomach and helps your doctor identify abnormalities if any!

Doctors can derive detailed cross-section images of your stomach through this scan, including your bones, muscles, and fats. Sometimes, a CT curates two-dimensional images. And sometimes, three-dimensional, depending on the available technique and doctors’ recommendation!

This scan shall happen in a hospital, clinic, or radiology lab. During this, the radiologist shall ask you to lie on a table. Then, the scan starts, where the x-ray beams shall circulate over your stomach, thereby recording the images on a computer display. The scan shall take around 15 minutes. But, in case of complexities, the maximum it intends is up to 30 minutes. For this entire span, you need to stay still and move only on instructions.

Many a time, your doctor may prescribe a CT with contrast. This contrast is an ionizing dye that lay administered intravenously before the scan. The contrast dye can highlight a specific area of your stomach in the image and help enhance diagnostic accuracy. 

When Do Doctors Recommend a CT Scan for Diagnosing The Cause of Stomach Pain?

Your doctors are likely to recommend a CT scan when they predict an underlying disorder; that requires treatment. Perhaps, stomach pain can result from various health conditions, and a CT scan looks for which one it is!

  • A CT scan can identify cysts in your stomach, their size, shape, and numbers.
  • If you have a benign or malignant tumor growing in your stomach, a CT scan can detect it, including the precise location, size, and extent. This scan can also help differentiate between cancerous and non-cancerous stomach tumors.
  • A CT scan can diagnose stomach enlargement, ulcers, polyps, and infections.
  • If you have a stomach injury or bleeding, a CT scan can locate it.
  • Your doctor may recommend a CT scan to detect pancreatitis causing stomach pain.
  • Doctors also order a CT scan of the stomach to examine diverticulitis, i.e., inflammation of the small pouches in your digestive tract called diverticula.
  • A CT scan can reveal whether you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where your stomach acids crawl up to the esophagus.
  • This diagnostic modality can also assess inflammation of your stomach lining or both the stomach and small bowel.
  • Doctors ask for a CT scan to detect conditions like gastroparesis, where the passage of food from the stomach to the small intestine slows down or stops.
  • A  CT scan can also detect and evaluate thickened bowel walls which trigger severe stomach pain.
  • If you have a fluid buildup or pus collection (abscesses) in your stomach or abdominal cavity, a CT scan can expose it.
  • Your doctor may order a CT for the stomach to detect an abdominal aortic aneurysm (swelling of the main aorta that runs through your abdomen).
  • A CT scan can even find stones, evaluate their composition, and a myriad more!

How Accurate is a CT Scan in Diagnosing The Cause of Your Stomach Pain?

Undoubtedly, a CT scan is the most common pick when it comes to the question of which scan is used for stomach pain, but do you know why? It is because of the accuracy rate a CT scan holds in diagnosing diseases and disorders that cause stomach pain.

  • According to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a CT scan hold nearly 90% accuracy in diagnosing advanced gastric or stomach cancers.
  • Studies show that a CT scan is 95% accurate in diagnosing abscesses in your abdominal organs, including the stomach.
  • Studies also state that a CT scan is 79 to 99 % sensitive in diagnosing diverticulitis.
  • As per some research, a CT scan has 96.4% accuracy in detecting acute pancreatitis.
  • Many of the latest research notes that a CT scan can accurately diagnose abdominal aortic aneurysm in 81% of the cases.
  • According to multiple studies, a CT scan reserves 72% specificity and 88% sensitivity in diagnosing bowel injuries.
  • Studies also highlight that a CT scan is 92.9% sensitive in diagnosing lower gastrointestinal bleeding.

When Do Doctors Prefer an Endoscopy, MRI, or Ultrasound Over CT Scan for Diagnosing The Cause of Stomach Pain?

Although it is most plausible for your doctor to pick a CT scan, many a time, endoscopy, MRI, and ultrasound come up as the answers to what scan is used for stomach pain. Of course, there lay reasons behind it.

  • Unlike a CT scan, an MRI or ultrasound does not involve radiation. Therefore, the latter leaves no scope for further health complications. That is why your doctor is likely to recommend this scan, especially if you are pregnant, below 18 years, or have certain allergies.
  • Doctors prefer an MRI over a CT scan in complex cases, like those affecting the soft tissues in or around the stomach. It is because an MRI holds greater accuracy in determining diseases of the soft tissues, specifically cancers.
  • Doctors prefer an endoscopy over a CT scan to diagnose conditions like GERD, gastritis, or gasterentitis. Perhaps, an endoscopy holds greater precision and accuracy in diagnosing these diseases than a CT scan.


So, if you have stomach pain, don’t just let it go thinking it is a mere stomach upset. It is essential to see a doctor and get a scan done. Such a move can help you detect an underlying disease and fetch an early cure.

If you have more doubts regarding the scans for stomach pain, feel free to ask us at [email protected]. We shall be pleased to serve you!

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Hi, I am Alka Tiwari, Founder & Patient Care Executive at MRIChandigarh.com. Helping you get the diagnostics scans services like MRI, CT Scan, UltraSound & PET Scan, etc at the best price. At MRIChandigarh's blog, I will be writing to create awareness and to educate you about how and where to get diagnostic scans done in Chandigarh at the best price with best-in-class services.
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