A CT scan, also called computed tomography or CAT scan, is a special type of X-ray test. X-rays are taken from different angles and a computer puts the X-ray images together to create cross-sectional views of the body.
A CT scan provides detailed pictures to:
CT scans are used when your healthcare provider needs more detailed information than regular X-rays can give. CT scans can show bone, muscle, fat, lymph nodes, organs, and blood vessels in detail. For example, a CT scan may be used to:
CT scans can be done in either a hospital or mobile unit.
Your child will lie down on a moving table, which will slide into a tunnel-like scanning machine. Inside the scanner, multiple X-ray beams are passed very quickly through your child’s body at different angles. Images of the body can be seen on a TV screen and prepared for your healthcare provider to examine later.
A solution of contrast dye may be injected into a vein, or your child may be asked to swallow a dye solution. The dye allows the scanner to show abnormal areas as the dye passes through the body. The dye may make your child feel warm. Your child’s face may get flushed, or your child may get a headache or have a salty taste in the mouth. In rare cases, the dye can cause nausea and vomiting.
Scans may last 15 to 90 minutes. They are painless, but if your child has a hard time staying still, your child may be given medicine to help him relax.
Because of the small, enclosed space, some children get anxious. It may help to bring a favorite toy or blanket to comfort your child, or let your child listen to his favorite music. If your child starts feeling scared, the scan may be stopped.
If your child had sedation, he will be watched carefully until he wakes up from the scan. Usually, your child will be ready to go home in a short while--15 minutes to a couple hours.
If your child was given dye for the scan, encourage your child to drink a lot of fluids after the scan. This helps your child’s body get rid of the dye. In rare cases some children have an allergic reaction to the dye. Most reactions happen right away, but your child could have a delayed reaction.
Ask your healthcare provider:
Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure and any risks. Some possible risks include:
There is risk with every treatment or procedure. Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.