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Computerized Tomography (CT)​

A CT scan — also called a CAT scan — helps the doctor and radiologist take a closer look at your child's internal organs, bones, blood vessels and soft tissues. It offers more detail than a general x-ray. The CT machine is shaped like a large doughnut, where your child moves through the opening of the doughnut on an exam table.

CTs are ordered for many reasons. Typical conditions or symptoms that a CT scan can help with can be:

  • Complications from infections, such as pneumonia
  • Tumors
  • Bony structures of the spine
  • Traumatic bony injuries such as a fractured ankle
  • Vascular trauma
  • Appendicitis
  • Kidney stones
  • Brain injuries and fractures
  • Bone, organ, and vascular trauma
  • Metastatic disease
  • Vascular abnormalities

CT scans use a combination of x-rays (radiation) and computer technology. Exactly how each CT is performed is customized to your child's weight, age, and which body part is being scanned. Our equipment and protocols use the least amount of radiation necessary to gain results. Learn more about our leadership role in the Image Gently Campaign. Lurie Children’s CT services are also ACR accredited to ensure that our screenings are safe for your child while providing quality care.

Frequently Asked Questions

If your child must be sedated, you will receive a call one day prior to your child’s scheduled appointment and be provided with arrival time and additional instructions.

For sedated or cardiac coronary patients, you should arrive 60-minutes prior to the scheduled appointment time.

For non-sedated contrast studies, you should arrive 30-minutes prior to the scheduled appointment time.

For non-contrast patients, you do not need to arrive prior to your child’s scheduled appointment time.

The typical age range for sedation is 6-months to 20 years of age. This also depends on your child’s condition and ability to tolerate the examination.

Please contact your physician ordering the CT scan, as special preparations may be necessary to protect your child.

What to Expect

Your child may need to be sedated depending on their age. You must be with your child to give your consent, and you can stay in the room until your child falls asleep. Learn more about sedation and how to prepare for your child's medical imaging procedure.

When your child has a CT scan, they are brought to the room and placed on a table. Most often children lie on their backs, but scans can be done in any position.

A child may go in the machine headfirst or feet first, depending on the body part being pictured. Whenever possible, we have your child go in feet first so their head and hands are outside where you can hold them. We use “seatbelts” to keep your child secure.

With younger children, the technologist may do a “practice run.” Usually, two sets of pictures are taken. Depending on the CT type, your child may have to hold their breath. The technologist will explain the process, so your child is not surprised.

If the CT procedure requires contrast in the veins, an IV may be needed. An IV is started by the nursing staff or the vascular access team. First, to numb the skin, we place a numbing agent into the skin without a needle. This will be done in the nursing room before your child enters the CT room.

If your child needs to drink oral contrast, you may bring any non-dairy or non-carbonated drink like juice or lemonade.

Some CT scans are as short as five seconds and some are longer depending on the body part being scanned. Since images can be looked at right away, the radiologist may check the images before your child is taken off the bed. During this time, it is important your child stays still in case more scans are needed.

After a CT Scan

After the test, your child may return to regular daily activities and meals. A nurse will give you any special instructions, and a phone number to call with questions. Results are sent to your child's doctor within 24 to 48 hours.

If your child is sedated, a nurse will stay with your child until awake. It's normal for your child to sleep up to two hours after medicine is given. Follow any instructions given to you and your child by the sedation nurse.

If your child has IV contrast injected, you can give them extra fluids to help flush the contrast, which is typically gone within 24 hours.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment, contact 312.227.4277.

For questions or concerns, contact 312.227.4500.

You can make and manage appointments, pay your bill online, and more through mychart.luriechidrens.org.

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