CT (Computed Tomography) Scan

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CT (Computed Tomography) Scan

What is a CT scan (computed tomography)?

In conventional X-rays, a beam of energy is aimed at the body part being studied. A plate behind the body part captures the variations of the energy beam after it passes through skin, bone, muscle, and other tissue. While much information can be obtained from a regular X-ray, specific detail about internal organs and other structures is not available.

With computed tomography scan (also called CT or CAT scan), the X-ray beam moves in a circle around the body. This allows for many different views of the same organ or structure, and provides much greater detail. The X-ray information is sent to a computer which interprets the X-ray data and displays it in two-dimensional form on a monitor.

CT scans may be done with or without contrast. "Contrast" refers to a substance taken by mouth or injected into an intravenous (IV) line that causes the particular organ or tissue being studied to be seen more clearly.

What is the preparation for a CT scan?

If your child's doctor schedules a CT scan of the heart or chest and decides to use contrast dye, your child may need to be NPO (fasting, nothing by mouth) for four hours prior to the procedure. You will receive instructions about this from your child's doctor or another health care professional.

You will need to let your child's doctor know if your child has ever had a reaction to any contrast dye, or if he or she is allergic to iodine. The risk of a serious allergic reaction to contrast materials containing iodine is rare, and radiology departments are equipped to handle them. A reported seafood allergy is not considered to be a contraindication for iodinated contrast. If your teenage daughter is pregnant or could be pregnant, you should notify the doctor prior to the procedure.

Children may receive a mild sedative before the procedure to make them feel more comfortable, and to help them to remain still and quiet during the procedure, which may last 5 to 10 minutes.

Parents may be able to stay with their child in the CT scan room until he or she becomes sleepy, but are usually asked to wait in another area during the procedure to avoid exposure to unnecessary radiation.

How is the CT scan performed?

The CT scanner is located in a large room. Your child lies on a narrow table that slides into a doughnut-shaped hole that’s part of the CT scanner.

Illustration of child getting ready for a CT scan

Your child may have an intravenous (IV) line for contrast medication. The contrast medication may be injected prior to the procedure or during the procedure.

The CT technologist will be in an adjacent room where the equipment controls are located. However, they will be able to see your child through a large window and will be monitoring him or her constantly during the procedure. If your child is not sedated, he or she will be given a call bell device to let the staff know if he or she needs anything during the procedure. Speakers are located inside the scanner so that your child can hear instructions from the CT staff and they can hear your child respond.

Once the procedure begins, your child will need to remain very still at all times so that movement will not adversely affect the quality of the images. At intervals, he or she will be instructed to hold his or her breath, if possible, for a few seconds. He or she will then be told when to breathe. Your child should not have to hold his or her breath for longer than a few seconds, so this should not be uncomfortable. Young children who cannot hold still for the procedure will be given medication to help them relax or sleep during the CT scan.

If the CT scan is being done "with and without contrast," your child will receive contrast medication through an IV about halfway through the procedure. He or she may feel warm or flushed just after the dye goes into the vein. This is a normal feeling and it will go away shortly.

Once the procedure is finished, the table will slide out of the scanner. If your child received medication for relaxation or sleep, he or she will be monitored until the medication wears off and he or she is awake again. If an IV was inserted, it will be taken out after the procedure is over and your child is awake.

You may be asked to wait for a short time while the radiologist reviews the scans to make sure they are clear and complete. If the scans are not sufficient to obtain adequate information, additional scanning may be done.

The test normally takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes, but you should plan on spending 30-60 minutes at the testing facility.

What happens after the procedure?

Without sedation, your child should be able to resume normal activities immediately, unless your child's doctor instructs you otherwise.

With sedation, your child may feel groggy, tired, or sleepy for a period of several hours after the procedure. However, the sedation effects should disappear within a day or so.

Depending on the results of the CT scan, additional tests or procedures may be scheduled to gather further diagnostic information.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 1/9/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

We can't find this page

We're sorry, there doesn't seem to be anything at this address.



Please Search for what you're looking for in the top right corner of this page, or visit the homepage

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Conditions and Procedures 

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Directions to Boston Children's Hospital

Boston Children's Hospital Locations

More Patient Resources



Still can't find what you need? Contact Us.

Request an Appointment

If this is a medical emergency, please dial 9-1-1. This form should not be used in an emergency.

Patient Information
Date of Birth:
Contact Information
Appointment Details
Send RequestIf you do not see the specialty you are looking for, please call us at: 617-355-6000.International visitors should call International Health Services at +1-617-355-5209.
Please complete all required fields

This department is currently not accepting appointment requests online. Please call us at: 617-355-6000. International +1-617-355-6000.

This department is currently not accepting appointment requests online. Please call us at: 617-355-6000. International +1-617-355-6000.

Thank you.

Your request has been successfully submitted

You will be contacted within 1 business day.

If you have questions or would like more information, please call:

617-355-6000+1-617-355-6000
close
Find a Doctor
Search by Clinician's Last Name or Specialty:
Select by Location:
Search by First Letter of Clinician's Last Name: *ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
More optionsSearch
Condition & Treatments
Search for a Condition or Treatment:
Show Items Starting With: *ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
View allSearch
Visitor Information
“
The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
Close