CT Scan :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

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CT Scan

About the Test

A CT (Computed Tomography) Scan is a type of x-ray that takes pictures of your child's body. The CT machine does not hurt or touch your child. He or she must lie very still while the x-rays are being taken.
The preparation for this test depends on the part of the body being scanned. Usually there is no special preparation for this test.
If your child needs special preparation, you will get instructions from your child’s doctor’s office after the test is scheduled.

Before the Test

  • Be sure to tell the technologist if there is a chance you or your child may be pregnant.
  • Please talk about the scan with your child before the test so he will know what the technologist will be doing. The technologist will tell you how long the test will take. Feel free to ask questions before and after the test. Parents may stay with their child during the CT scan, except for pregnant women and parents who have other children with them.
  • The technologist may give some contrast solution in the child's vein through a small needle (or IV). Your child will feel a little stick at first, but if he holds still, it will last only a few seconds.
  • The contrast medium circulates in the blood and makes certain parts of the child's body show up clearly on the x-rays.
  • Please arrive to register 10 minutes before the procedure time. From time to time, the schedule gets behind or delayed. When this happens the technologist will be sure to let you know when the scan will be done.

General Anesthesia

A parent or legal guardian needs to be present if your child is to have general anesthesia. The parent or guardian will need to give information on the child’s health and sign a form giving consent for sedation. If a parent or guardian cannot be here, please have a phone number where an anesthesiologist can reach them before the test.
Child Care: please try to arrange for childcare for other children in the family.
Stroller: if your child will be sedated or have general anesthesia, it may be helpful to bring your stroller from home.
If your child is having general anesthesia you will get a call from the Procedure Center the evening before the procedure. They will tell you where and when to arrive, and give you further instructions regarding eating and drinking.
If you have questions, call the Procedure Center at 614-722-5200.

How the Test is Done

Image of CT Scan

Picture 1: Having a CT Scan

  • For the test, your child will be placed on a padded table. Straps, like seat belts in a car, will be placed across his body and fastened to the table to keep him from moving or falling.
  • If your child is having a brain CT scan, anything on his or her head (such as metal hair clips, a hat, glasses or a wig) will be removed. A strap will be placed across his forehead and soft pads will be placed beside his ears to help hold his head still.
  • If a scan of your child's abdomen is being taken, he or she will need to drink oral contrast solution before the scan. The contrast is mixed with fruit punch.
  • If your child prefers another kind of juice, bring 20 ounces with you. The contrast can be mixed in any juice, tea or soda.
  • Your child’s arms will be placed above the head so they are not in the picture. You may need to hold his hands during the scan.
  • If your child has Anesthesia, he will be placed on a heart monitor and pulse oximeter so the nurse and doctor can check his heart rate and breathing during the CT scan
  • The technologist will move the table so that the area to be scanned is just inside the opening of the CT machine (see Picture 1). The technologist will go into another room to start the CT machine.
  • The technologist will stay in the other room to run the machine, but will always be able to see your child through the window and talk to him or her through an intercom system.
  • Your child will hear a buzzing sound when the CT machine starts. The CT machine moves around the part of the body being scanned and makes a whirring sound. As it moves, X-ray beams are sent out. X-ray detectors pick up these beams. They are measured and collected in the memory of the computer. The computer makes a picture of the section of the body.
  • Your child must hold his body very still until the motor stops running. The technologist will watch the monitor to see that the pictures are being taken correctly.

After the Test

If your child has Anesthesia, he or she will be in the Procedure Center recovery area for 30 minutes to one hour after the test is done while he or she wakes up. Your child needs to be fully awake before going home.

  • Your child should not return to school or childcare on the day of the CT scan. He or she needs to be supervised by a parent or other caregiver the rest of the day.
  • Your child will be given something to eat and drink before going home.
  • The nurse will give you home-going instructions for your child.
  • A report of the CT scan will be sent to your child’s doctor within 48 hours. The doctor will explain the test results and the plan for medical care.

If you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor or nurse, or call the Nationwide Children’s Hospital CT Department at (614) 722-9255.

CT Scan (PDF)

HH-III-19 7/78, Revised 5/15 Copyright 1978, Nationwide Children’s Hospital 

Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000