CT Scan

Chest CT Scan Chest CT Scan

What is a CT scan?

A CT scan is used to take a picture of your child's body. A computer uses X-rays to make "slice-like" pictures of body parts and internal organs.

How to get ready for the CT scan

Usually you do not need to do anything special to prepare for the CT scan. However, some children need medicine to help them sleep (sedation or general anaesthetic) so that they can lie still for the scan. If your child is having sleep medicine, they will need to stop eating and drinking several hours before the CT scan.

What your child should wear for the CT scan

Children having a CT scan of the head can wear their own clothes. Remove all metal from your child, including accessories and on clothing, before the test. Your child cannot wear earrings, hair clips, hair bands, or necklaces.

If the scan is of the chest, back, or belly, dress your child in clothing with no metal snaps or zippers.

What to do if your child is not feeling well

Please call the CT Scan Department one business day before the scan (or earlier) if your child has a high temperature, runny nose, cough, or cold.

What to do if your child is taking medication

If your child is taking any medication, please tell the nurse before you come in for the test. On the day of the test, please call and speak with a CT scan nurse before you give your child any medication.

Other information we should know before the CT scan

  • Please tell us if your child has any special needs.
  • Please tell us if your child has diabetes, a heart condition, breathing problems, or any other chronic medical problems.
  • Please tell us if your child is older than five years of age but you do not think he or she will be able to stay still for at least 20 minutes during the test.

Helping your child to lie still during the CT scan

To get clear pictures, your child cannot move during the scan. Movement during the scan creates blurry pictures, meaning the doctor cannot see the information they need. Most young children find it hard to stay still, so we try to take the pictures when they are asleep.

Babies under 2 months old

Keep your baby awake and do not feed them for three hours before your test time. Bring a bottle (unless you are breastfeeding), a favourite blanket, or a soother if your child uses one.

If your baby is tired and feeds just before the test, they will usually fall asleep for the test.

Children 4 months to 5 years old

If your child is less than five years old, they may find it very hard to hold still for a long time. We will give your child sleep medicine for the CT scan.

Children 5 years and older

If your child is older than five years of age but you don't think they will be able to stay still for at least 20 minutes during the test, please tell us before the test.

If your child is having sleep medicine for the CT scan

To make the sleep medicine safe, your child must have an empty stomach. The nurse will call you to explain what your child can eat and drink before the sleep medicine. The table below also tells you when your child must stop eating or drinking.

What your child can eat and drink before the sleep medicine (sedation or general anaesthetic)

If your child does not follow these instructions, your child's CT scan will be cancelled.

Time before procedure

What you need to know

Midnight before the procedure

No more solid food. This also means no gum or candy.

Your child can still drink liquids such as milk, orange juice, and clear liquids. Clear liquids are anything you can see through, such as apple juice, ginger ale, or water.

Your child can also eat Jell-O or popsicles.

6 hours

No more milk, formula, or liquids you cannot see through, such as milk, orange juice, and cola.

4 hours

Stop breastfeeding your baby.

2 hours

No food or drink at ALL.

If you were given more instructions about eating and drinking, write them down here:

If your child is having X-ray dye

To get more information on certain parts of the body, we may give your child a special kind of medicine called contrast, also called X-ray dye.

This dye outlines certain parts of the body so that they show up more clearly. The dye goes into the body through a needle into a vein. For some body parts, it can also be mixed into a drink for your child.

We will give your child the dye before or during the test. This will depend on what body part we are taking pictures of.

Sometimes the X-ray dye gives a feeling of being warm. It may also have a funny taste or smell. Most children say that it tastes like bananas. This taste goes away quickly.

A few children do react to the dye. Tell the staff if your child has had any allergies or other reactions to X-ray dye in the past.

You may notice a rash or hives up to 48 hours after the dye injection. Please call the nurse in the CT department to document this mild reaction on your chart.

If your child is having a needle

The CT scan does not hurt because nothing touches your child. However, your child may need to have a needle or a tube (also called an IV) for the X-ray dye.

If your child is having sleep medicine for the test, this may also be given through a needle or an IV. The poke from the needle may hurt a little when it goes into the vein.

EMLA and Maxilene are names for topical local anaesthetic creams or "magic creams" that freeze the skin if your child needs an IV so that your child does not feel any pain. If you want us to use this cream on your child, you must arrive at least one hour before your appointment (but no earlier than 8:00 in the morning). When you arrive for your appointment, please tell the receptionist you came early so that your child can have the EMLA cream.

Information about the CT scan

Only one parent is allowed into the CT scan room during the test. You will be given a lead coat to wear. You will be able to hold your child's hand.

If you are going to have a baby or think you might be pregnant, let the staff know before you go into the CT scan room.

Your child will lie on a narrow bed. The technologist will make sure that your child is lying on the table in the correct position for the CT scan. Your child will be held with a safety strap. If your child is having a CT scan of the head, the technologist may place little pillows beside your child's ears and a headband over their forehead to keep their head still.

The bed moves up and into the CT machine, which looks like a big donut. The camera moves around inside the machine and takes many pictures. The camera makes some noise when it takes a picture, but the camera will not touch your child.

Your child needs to stay very still while the camera is taking pictures. Your child can sleep (or pretend to sleep), or you can read a story to help the time go faster.

The technologist will be able to hear, see, and speak to your child during the CT scan.

Depending on the body part we are scanning, the scan can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes from start to finish. When the scan is finished, the technologist or nurse will help your child off the table.

If your child was given sleep medicine, usually they will sleep for up to one hour in the wake-up room after the CT scan.

We will write down the kind and the amount of sleep medicine and explain how to take care of your child at home.

How to help your child get ready for the CT scan

The CT department has a friendly and colourful environment to help your child feel less scared. There are video games, books, and movies in the waiting room.

The size of the CT scan machine can scare some children. Be honest and talk openly with your child about what to expect. Explain what will happen.

Show your child the picture of the scanner on the cover of this booklet. You can describe it as a big camera that takes pictures of the inside of the body. It looks like a very big donut.

Explain to your child that he or she will need to stay still for the camera, just like you need to hold still to have a picture taken with an ordinary camera. The difference is that this camera takes much longer to take a picture.

Your child can practice lying very still while you read to him or her. Make a game out of being "sooooooo still, just like a statue." Tell your child that you will read to him or her as the scanner takes the pictures.

The scan does not hurt because nothing touches your child. When the scan starts, your child will hear a funny sound. Most children say it sounds like a washing machine.

Getting the scan results

The radiologist (also called the X-ray doctor) will not give you the results. After the radiologist has looked at the pictures, he or she will write a report for the doctor who asked for the test.

The results are usually sent out in about two days.

If you have any questions about the results, please call the doctor who asked for the tests. Please wait 5 business days before calling.

Key points

  • A CT scan uses X-rays and a computer to take "slice-like" pictures of body parts and internal organs.
  • If your child is having sleep medicine for the CT scan, you must follow the rules about what your child can eat and drink before the test.
  • The scan will not hurt. Nothing touches your child. When the scan starts, your child will hear a funny sound.

Guila BenDavid, MRTR


At SickKids:

On the day of the test, call the CT scan department:

  • 416-813-6070 from 7:30 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon (booking clerk)
  • 416-813-7654 EXT: 201499 from 8:00 in the morning to 6:30 in the evening

Other important information

  • The hospital is a busy place. There is pay parking underground but it can be hard to find a space. Please allow for extra time to get to your appointment.
  • When coming for your CT scan appointment you must register first at the Diagnostic Imaging/CT Scan registration area, which is on the 2nd floor near the Burton Wing elevators. You may have to wait before someone can register you. Please allow for extra time.
  • For more information about SickKids, including parking and directions, please read the brochure, "Welcome to our Clinics."