Commonly Asked Questions About CT Scans: What Do I Need To Know?

December 18, 2014


CT scan Texas Children’s Hospital is the largest full-service pediatric radiology group in the country. Using the most up-to-date, technological imaging advances, pediatric radiology performs nearly 200,000 procedures annually. It is important with any radiology testing to realize that your child is not a “one size fits all” candidate and that the radiologist uses special equipment for pediatric patients. Our team is specially trained to work with the specific needs of children in a family friendly environment. In order to bring comfort to parents when their child is going to receive a CT scan I have put together some of the most commonly asked questions: What is a CT scan? CT scan stands for computed tomography scan. A computer uses X-rays to make a series of detailed pictures of the inside of the body. The CT machine is big and looks something like a large doughnut. What is the difference between a CT scan and a MRI? A CT scan uses X-rays while a MRI uses magnetism to take detailed images of the inside of your body. What can my child expect? Your child will lie on a table, secured by soft safety straps. The table will move slowly through the middle of the machine while the pictures are made. The CT machine will not touch your child and the scan will not hurt. You may stay with your child during the CT, but you must wear a lead apron. If you are pregnant you must not be in the room while the CT is being done. Plan on the entire visit taking a few hours depending on the type of CT. The scan itself takes about 15 minutes, but we must do quite a bit to prepare your child for it. The visit will take much less time if your child does not need sedation. What should my child wear? Help your child choose clothing that is comfortable, such as a sweatsuit or a T-Shirt and pants with an elastic waist. He or she should not wear items with metal snaps or zippers, jewelry, hair pins or bands. Metal may make the CT pictures fuzzy. What can I bring from home? Your child may bring their favorite blanket or stuffed animal. A favorite item often helps a young child go to sleep. Your child may also bring games, books or other quiet activities for waiting times. Once the test is over your child may be hungry, so some juice or a snack is allowed. A stroller for a younger child may also be necessary as your child may be too sleepy after the sedative to walk. What else do I need to know? If your child is under the age of 6, or you think he or she will need medicine to lie still, please follow the instructions for the sedative carefully as it is important for your child’s safety. The doctor (radiologist) may decide contrast (dye for radiology procedures)  is needed to help certain parts of your child’s body to show up better on the CT scan. If contrast is used, your child will need an IV. If you would like more information on Texas Children’s Department of Pediatric Radiology visit

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