Computed tomography (CT)

<p>Computed tomography (CT)</p>

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, although it can be hard for some children to lie still long enough to complete the test.

A CT scanner is a large machine with short tunnel in the center. Some people say it looks like a large doughnut. Your child will lie on a moveable examination table that slides in and out of the tunnel. As the 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 2D or 3D, depending on what type of test your doctor requested.

Each child who receives a CT scan at Texas Children’s Hospital benefits from our extraordinary expertise, extensive experience and specialized, leading-edge technology. We’re 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.

Call us to schedule an appointment: 832-824-9729 

Note: An order from your doctor is needed to make an appointment.


How are CT scans used?

CT scans are used to help detect, diagnose and monitor a wide range of conditions due to injury or illness, including:

  • Cancer and other tumors
  • Chronic sinus problems
  • Evaluation of the chest area
  • Head injuries or neurological disorders
  • Infectious or inflammatory disorders
  • Pain, disease or injury in the abdominal area
  • Trauma

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 approach 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 quickly.

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’ll be able to stay with your child if you’re not pregnant; you must wear a lead apron. You must not be in the room during the test if you’re pregnant. If sedation is given, you’ll return to the waiting room during the test.

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 may be asked to hold their 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’ll 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.

Preparing your child for a CT scan

Preparing your child for a CT scan

Learn about the details of your child’s upcoming CT scan. We also offer a variety of patient resources to help you and your child prepare for imaging.