What to expect if your child needs a CT scan

Posted by Rachel Masey

Wed, May 7, 2014 @ 04:39 PM

CAT scan

First, let’s discuss what a CT scanner is and its’ capabilities:

A CT scanner, also known as a CAT scanner, uses X-rays, which are generated through a computer, in order to form detailed pictures of a specific internal body part.

 The scanner sends X-rays through a particular part of the body that needs to be analyzed. While the scanner rotates, it is creating thinly sliced pictures of that specific body part. Sometimes, there can be difficulties in seeing certain sections of the body or some organs. If this obstacle occurs, an injectable dye can be used in order for the CT scanner to capture better pictures. CT scans aid in locating tumors, kidney stones, lung cancer, appendicitis and aneurysms. They help determine where liver, heart, pelvis and pancreas problems stem from and if a CT is used as a tool during a procedure, it helps direct instruments that have been inserted into the body so that the correct location is reached!

When it comes to scanning children, usually the CT scanner is used to diagnose cancer, diagnose and monitor inflammatory disorders, evaluate injuries and diagnose causes of abdominal pain. It also is very useful when the chest needs to be evaluated. If a child is suffering with pneumonia or a tumor has been found in a the lungs, if a child has certain birth defects within the chest or if there has been disruptions to blood vessels or the lungs, a CT scanner is the primary medical test of choice. 

If your child’s primary doctor recommends that they get a CT scan, here are some pointers:

  • Have your child wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes (they will probably be asked to wear a gown but at least it will be easier/quicker for them to change)
  • Make sure that your child is not wearing any kind of metal objects: such as, glasses, hearing aids, retainers (that are not permanent), jewelry or even hair pins.
  • Sometimes it’s helpful if you bring a ‘comfort’ piece for your child to hold on to during the scan: such as, a favorite toy, stuffed animal or blankey.
  • Before the day of the exam, you should practice lying still for about 5-10 minutes with your child. This helps them understand what will be expected of them once they are on the CT table. The child is required to stay very still to ensure that the CT pictures come out very clear.

-If your child has a tough time remaining motionless, they might need to be sedated (be medicated to sleep through the duration of the scanning process). Don’t worry, this procedure occurs quite frequently! If sedation is required, your child may be given specific instructions in preparation for the exam. Usually, those details require your child to not consume food or drink several hours prior to being scanned. After the exam, the child is kept in the department until the child is more alert.

What will your child experience on the day of their scan?

  • The technician will first ask that your child lay down on the CT table.
  • To help your child not move around as much during the test, they will place a wide strap across your child’s waist. They also put a lead cover over your child for radiation protection.

-At this point, it is your job to communicate with your child to make sure that they are comfortable. It will be easier for them to tell you the truth and express how they feel. A parent/guardian is allowed to be in the room while the scanning is taking place, but they too will be required to wear a lead cover for protection. (If you are pregnant, it is best that you have someone else accompany your child)

  • Once the child is secure, the technologist will move the table into the CT scanner.
  • For the duration of the scanning, the technologist will not actually be in the same room as you. They will be in a nearby equipment control room but will be able to see you scan room and has the ability to communicate with you using an intercom system.
  • Your child will most likely encounter clicking, knocking and buzzing sounds. This is the scanner revolving around your child, during the imaging process.

After the test:

Your child’s images and reports will be sent out for interpretation and examination. If the results are serious, your doctor who referred the scan to be done will be notified immediately. Usually, you should always contact the referring doctor for the results.