What is a CT scan?
A CT scan uses special X-ray machines and powerful computers to make a series of detailed pictures of the inside of the body, including bone, tissue and blood vessels. CT scans are painless, though it may be difficult for some children to lie still long enough to complete the test.
CT equipment is a large machine with a hole or short tunnel in the center. Some people say it looks like a large doughnut. The patient lies on a moveable examination table that slides in and out of the tunnel. As the examination table moves through the scanner, the X-ray beams form a spiral. A special computer program reads this series of images and displays the results on a monitor. The images may be two-dimensional or three-dimensional, depending on what type of test your doctor requested.
CT scans are used to help detect, diagnose and monitor a wide range of conditions due to injury or illness, including:
- Pain, disease or injury in the abdominal area
- Head injuries or neurological disorders
- Chronic sinus problems
- Cancer and other tumors
- Infectious or inflammatory disorders
- Evaluation of the chest area
How do I prepare my child for a CT scan?
There may be special rules about preparing for the test your child will have. Be sure to write down and follow any directions you are given. If you forget or have questions, call us at 832-TC4-XRAY (832-824-9729).
What happens during a CT scan?
Before and during the test, a child-life specialist can help your child relax and feel more comfortable by providing coaching and distraction tailored to your child’s developmental level. Sometimes this helps reduce the need for sedation.
Preparing for the test
If your child is young or unable to lie still, he may need to be given medicine to help him relax or sleep. This is called sedation or anesthesia. Depending on the test, sedation or anesthesia may be given by mouth, shot or IV (a needle connected to a tiny tube).
The doctor may want your child to be given contrast medicine during the test. Contrast is a special medicine that helps certain body parts show up better on the image. It may be given as a drink or with an IV. If contrast is given in an IV, your child may notice a warm feeling and a metallic taste. These last only for a few moments. If your child drinks the contrast, it may have a slightly unpleasant taste that fades soon.
If your child needs an IV, a needle will be inserted into your child’s skin to give the medicine. Your child might feel a pinch or a poke when the needle goes into the vein. We have ways to help with the pain if your child needs it.
You will be allowed to stay with your child if you are not pregnant, but you must wear a lead apron. You must not be in the room during the test if you are pregnant. If sedation is given, you will return to the waiting room during the test.
When the test begins, the table will move slowly into the round hole in the middle of the machine. The table may move in and out of the machine several times. Although the machine makes humming and clicking noises, they probably will not bother your child. The CT unit does not touch your child, and the test should be painless.
Your child will be asked to lie completely still, and he may be asked to hold his breath for a short time. Any movement may make the images blurry. The computer and monitor used for the scan are in a separate room with a large window. The technologist who completes the test can see, hear and speak to your child during the test.
A CT scan takes about 15 minutes, but the entire visit may take a few hours. If your child receives sedation or anesthesia, you can return to the exam room when the test is over. We will monitor your child closely until he is fully awake. Follow any instructions regarding activity and dietary restrictions.
How do I find out results of the CT scan?
The technologist cannot tell you the results of the test. A pediatric radiologist will analyze the images and provide a report of the findings to your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor will then notify you of the results.
Why choose Texas Children’s?
Each child who receives a computer tomography (CT) scan at Texas Children’s Department of Radiology benefits from our extraordinary expertise, extensive experience and specialized, leading-edge technology. We are dedicated to your child’s safety, and we always use customized procedures and equipment that assure your child receives the lowest dose of radiation to achieve the most accurate, detailed image needed for the best possible care.
Imaging procedures can be anxiety producing, and we do everything possible to help you and your child relax before and during the procedure.
- Our environment is designed especially for children, and we offer a variety of entertainment options
- Child-life specialists provide age-appropriate games and diversion methods to help your child relax
- Sedation is available if your child needs it