Radiology

Computed Tomography (CT)

What is Computed Tomography (CT)?

What should you do prior to the exam?

What should you do when you arrive?

What should you expect during the exam?

What should you do after the exam?

Test Results

What is Computed Tomography (CT)?

Computed Tomography (CT), sometimes called a CAT Scan, uses x-rays and computers to create an image of the inside of the body. Most body parts can be examined using CT.

The CT machine looks like a giant doughnut. The patient on the exam table moves through the opening of the doughnut.

The CT machine makes images that are different than a regular x-ray. It makes cross-sectional images of the body, most often referred to as slices. Just imagine looking at a piece of bread from the middle of the loaf. That's what a CT machine can do. The CT scanner takes pictures, as the body moves through the machine, of different sections or slices of tissue.

What should you do prior to the exam?

There are different preparations to follow according to exactly what type of CT scan your child is having.

If your child is:

If your child has a known allergy to radiographic contrast, additional preparations may be necessary. Please contact your referring physician to ask about these preparations if necessary.

Dress your child comfortably, in clothes that are easily removed (Sweat clothes, t -shirts). Your child may be given a gown to change into for the CT scan, if required.

Limit the use of jewelry and/or metal (zippers, snaps) in the area of scanning interest.

If you have copies of your child's previous imaging studies from another institution, please bring them for comparison.

Note: Parents/guardians will be allowed to accompany the child into the exam room; other arrangements should be made for siblings.

Women who are pregnant or may be pregnant will be asked to leave the exam room during the procedure. Please make sure that there is someone else available to accompany the child during the exam, if needed.

What should you do when you arrive?

If your appointment is scheduled at the Main Hospital:

You must check in to Outpatient Registration, on the third floor of the Main Hospital, 45 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. This is where your registration process occurs.

The law requires that you bring a prescription from your doctor's office stating the exam to be done and the reason for it.

If your insurance requires a referral, it must be presented at the time of registration. Proof of insurance will also need to be provided at this time.

Once the registration process is completed, the CT Department will be notified. A technologist or nurse will come out to the central registration area and bring you and your child to a room for IV placement if necessary.

If your appointment is scheduled at the Pediatric Imaging Center at King of Prussia:

You must check in at the main registration desk, located in the main waiting room, 45 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. This is where your registration process occurs.

The law requires that you bring a prescription from your doctor's office stating the exam to be done and the reason for it.

If your insurance requires a referral, it must be presented at the time of registration. Proof of insurance will also need to be provided at this time.

Once the registration process is completed, you will be directed to the Radiology waiting room. The CT technologist will be notified and a technologist or nurse will come out to the Radiology waiting room and bring you and your child to a room for IV placement if necessary.

What should you expect during the exam?

If your child is receiving contrast and/or sedation, you will first be taken to our nursing station. Here, a nurse will place an IV in your child for the injection needed for the exam. This IV tube will be placed in the child's arm, hand, or foot. Your child will only feel a little discomfort. Once the child has proper IV access, and/or a sedation assessment completed, the procedure can begin.

You and your child will be taken to the CT exam room. The technologist will ask why the CT is being performed and explain the procedure to both you and your child. Procedures may vary depending on the part of the body being examined.

The technologist will position your child on the CT table, most likely lying on their back, depending on the body part being examined. The CT scanner has a red light that will shine on your child's body to help ensure that your child is in the right position. A lead shield will be provided for your child, as long as it does not interfere with the exam. If you are accompanying your child into the room, a shield will be provided to you as well.

The technologist will ask your child to hold very still during the scan. Any type of movement during a CT scan will make the images look fuzzy, and may have to be repeated. Your child may also have to hold his/her breath a couple times during the scan.

After the technologist leaves the room, the CT scan will begin. The table will move through the doughnut hole slowly, and may even peek out the other side! The CT scanner makes a small noise like the whirl of a washing machine. A voice recorded in the CT scanner will tell your child when to hold his/her breathe, and when they can breathe again.

Your child will not feel the x-rays from the CT scan, but sometimes holding still for a long time can be uncomfortable. The CT scan only takes about 5 to 15 minutes; however, your child may be in the room longer while the images are checked for quality, or if additional images are needed.

The images are displayed on a computer screen and are sent to the Radiologist to be read.

Child Life Specialists are available to answer questions you might have about how to prepare and support your child during the procedure. A child life specialist can also be present at the time of your child's appointment to explain the procedure in developmentally appropriate ways using well established preparation materials. The specialist can also be available to help implement distraction techniques to help your child better cope with the stress of the hospital experience. Please call 215-590-2001 or click the link above for more information. If your child's procedure is scheduled for the Pediatric Imaging Center at King of Prussia, you can call the Child Life Specialist directly at 215-590-3069.

What should you do after the exam?

If your child received sedation, follow any instructions given by the sedation nurses upon completion of this procedure.

Test Results

The images from your child's exam are interpreted on the same day and a report sent to your physician's office.

If your physician has any questions regarding the report, he/she may call 215-590-2584.

  • Print
  • Share

Appointments

CHOP is recognized by the American College of Radiology for our commitment to safe imaging practices in computed tomography (CT scans). The CT Accreditation Program evaluates image quality, dose measurements and scanning protocols.