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CT Scan of the Neck: About Your Child's Test

What is it?

A CT (computed tomography) scan uses X-rays to make detailed pictures of the inside of your child's body. A CT scan of the neck can give the doctor information about your child's neck, throat, tonsils, and other parts near the neck.

During the test, your child will lie on a table that is attached to the CT scanner. The CT scanner is a large doughnut-shaped machine.

Why is this test done?

A CT scan of the neck can help find problems such as infection or tumours.

How can you prepare for the test?

Talk to the doctor about all of your child's health conditions before the test. For example, tell the doctor if your child:

  • Has diabetes.
  • Is allergic to any medicines.
  • Had an X-ray test using barium contrast material in the past 4 days.
  • Gets nervous in tight spaces.

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

Talk to the doctor if you are concerned about radiation. A CT scan uses a small dose of radiation. The doctor or radiologist will use the smallest amount possible for the test.

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. The doctor will tell you if your child should stop eating or drinking before the test.

What happens before the test?

  • Your child may be asked to take off jewellery.
  • Your child will change into a gown.
  • If your child does leave some clothes on, make sure that there's nothing in the pockets.
  • Your child may have contrast materials (dye) put into an IV in the arm. In some cases, your child may have to drink a contrast material. It helps doctors see specific organs and blood vessels and most tumours.
  • If a dye is used, your child may feel a quick sting or pinch when the IV is started.
  • Your child may get a sedative to help her or him relax and stay still during the test.

What happens during the test?

  • 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. And your child may be asked to hold his or her 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 be watching through a window and talking 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 only takes about 10 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 his or her room.
  • If contrast material was used, have your child drink lots of liquids for 24 hours after the test unless your doctor says not to. The dye may make your child feel warm and flushed. It may leave a metallic taste in the mouth. Some people feel sick to their stomach or get a headache.
  • If your child had medicine to help relax (sedation), he or she may be unsteady after the test. An older child may have trouble walking. A baby may be unsteady when sitting or crawling. It takes time (sometimes a few hours) for the medicine effects to wear off. The care team will let you know when it's safe to drive your child home.

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 call line 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?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.