CHOC Children's Radiology
What is a CT scan (computed tomography)?
A Computed Tomography (CT) scan or CAT scan, is a test that uses special X-ray equipment and computers to make detailed pictures of organs and bones. It is a painless way for doctors to see inside the body. Radiologists use expertise and specialized equipment to interpret the CT scan pictures to help diagnose problems or check the body’s response to treatment.
What type of CT scan machine is used at CHOC Children’s?
CHOC Children’s is proud to offer patients the very latest in CT technology with our flash CT scan machine. This state-of-the-art machine is only found in a handful of children’s hospitals throughout the United States, and has revolutionized the way CT images are taken.
Our amazing flash CT scan machine:
- Scans the entire body in less than 5 seconds.
- Uses a very low dose of radiation while producing high-quality images.
- Allows the technologist to customize the scan based on the child's measurements and symptoms and protect dose-sensitive organs.
What is the preparation for a CT scan?
- Children should wear loose, comfortable clothing and may bring a “comfort item” to hold during the scan.
- Depending on the type of study needed, the child may need to drink a liquid and/or have a liquid dye material called “contrast” injected to complete the exam. The IV contrast is needed to check the blood supply of the area being studied. The IV contrast is considered very safe.
- Lab tests may need to be done prior to the day of the scan.
- The child may not be allowed to eat or drink prior to the procedure depending on the specific scan ordered by the physician.
- A CHOC Children’s radiology team member will notify the child’s caregivers (parents or legal guardians) if any type of additional preparation is needed.
How is the CT scan performed?
The CT scan is painless, fast and easy and begins with the child lying down on a narrow table that slides in and out of a doughnut-shaped hole in the center of the CT scanner. Straps and pillows may be used to help the child maintain the position needed for the exam.
Some children may require an intravenous contrast material for the scan. There may be some discomfort with the placement of this into the vein. The contrast medication is given halfway through the procedure, and the child may feel a sensation like they have to urinate or a warm flushed sensation just after the dye goes into the vein. This is a normal feeling and will subside quickly.
The scan usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the part of the body that is being scanned. It is very important that the child stays very still during the scan, as movement will affect the quality of the images. Many scanners are fast enough that children can be scanned successfully. In special cases, anesthesia may be needed for children who cannot hold still.
What happens after the procedure?
In most cases, the child should be able to resume normal activities immediately after the procedure, unless the child's doctor has instructed otherwise. If anesthesia was administered, the child will be taken to the recovery area to be watched until the medication wears off and he or she wakes up. If contrast was given, the child should drink plenty of water and fluids to help flush the contrast dye out of the body.
A report of the child’s scan will be sent to the doctor who ordered it within 48 hours. (Please contact the doctor who ordered the scan for the results.) Depending on the results of the CT scan, additional tests or procedures may be scheduled to gather further diagnostic information.