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CT Scan: About Your Child's Test

What is it?

A computed tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays to make detailed pictures of parts of your child's body and the structures inside the body. During the test, your child will lie on a table that's attached to the CT scanner. The CT scanner is a large doughnut-shaped machine.

Why is this test done?

Doctors use CT scans to study areas of the body, such as the brain, chest, belly, spine, bones, or joints. CT scans are also used to assist with or check on the success of a procedure or surgery.

How do you prepare for the test?

Let your child know that a CT scan doesn't hurt.

If your child gets nervous in tight spaces, ask the doctor if your child will need sedation to help relax before the test. You can also ask if your child will swallow a contrast material before the test or if your child will have contrast materials (dye) put into an I.V. in the arm. The doctor will tell you if your child should stop eating or drinking before the test.

How is the test done?

  • Your child may have contrast materials (dye) put into an I.V. in the arm.
  • Your child will lie on a table that's attached to the CT scanner.
  • The table slides into the round opening of the scanner. The table will move during the scan. The scanner moves within the doughnut-shaped casing around your child's body.
  • Your child will be asked to hold still during the scan. Or a safety strap or device may be used. Your child may also be asked to hold their breath for short periods. You may need to help your child do these things.
  • Your child will be kept safe and comfortable during the test. You may be able to stay in the room with your child. A technologist will watch through a window and talk with your child during the test.

How long does the test take?

The test will take about 30 to 60 minutes. Most of this time is spent getting ready for the scan. The actual test takes a few minutes.

What happens after the test?

  • Depending on the reason for the test, your child will probably be able to go home right away. If your child is in the hospital, your child will be taken back to their room.
  • If dye was used, have your child drink lots of liquids for 24 hours after the test, unless your doctor says not to.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your child's test results.

Where can you learn more?

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