Computed Tomography (CT Scan) for Children


What is a computed tomography (CT) scan?

A CT scan (or computed tomography scan is a type of test that combines X-rays with a computer that produces many 3-dimensional (3D) images of the body part being scanned. A CT scan takes pictures of your bones, muscles, organs, and blood vessels. The “camera” looks like a big doughnut with a “bed” that lies in the “doughnut hole.” This bed will move in and out as pictures are being taken. The camera is inside the doughnut and spins around you as you lay on the bed, but does not touch you.

Why is my child having a computed tomography (CT) scan?

A CT scan is done to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of different medical conditions.

Test Details

How long does a computed tomography (CT) scan take?

A CT scan does not take long at all. Depending on the part of the body, and if there is contrast or not, most scans are 5 minutes or less. Some are only one minute long! It is very important that your child lay very still in order for the scan to be completed.

What preparation is needed for the computed tomography (CT) scan?

Your child may not be allowed to have anything to eat or drink for a minimum of 4 hours prior to the scan.

What happens during the computed tomography (CT scan?

  • You may meet with a child life specialist who will explain what will happen when you go into the room.
  • Your child will enter the room and will be asked to lie on his/her back on the “bed.”
  • Parent/caregivers are allowed to remain in the room and will now be given a lead apron (“funny dress”) to wear to protect them from getting radiation.
  • The CT technologist will help them get into the right spot/position on the “bed” so the correct pictures can be taken.
  • Depending on the type of scan, your child may have some soft pillows placed next to their ears to help remind them to be still or a small “seatbelt” may be placed across their forehead. A “seatbelt” will be placed over your child’s lap and a Vitamin E tablet may be placed on your child’s right side. This tells the camera right from left and is always placed on the body part where the pictures are being taken.
  • Once your child is in the right position, the “bed” will move through the “hole” and then back out as the first picture is being taken.
  • The “bed” will now go back through the “hole” and back out again for the second picture.
  • Once the second picture is done, the scan (“picture taking”) is over.

What can I do to help put my child more at ease during the computed tomography (CT) scan?

  • At home, before coming in for the scan, you and your child could practice laying still. This will help your child to feel more comfortable when being asked to do this during the scan.
  • Your child may hold onto a favorite toy or blanket during the scan.
  • You may sing or read to your child during the scan. Infants may be comforted by a pacifier or bottle.
  • You may stay close to your child throughout the entire scan, holding his/her hands or feet, and comforting while offering praise and reassurance.
  • Remember, your presence is a comfort to your child. Please try to plan for alternate care for siblings on the day of the scan.
  • Pregnant mothers are unable to stay in the room. Please arrange for another trusted comforting adult to be with your child during the test.

What happens after the computed tomography (CT) scan?

  • After the scan, your child may eat and drink normally.
  • The results will be sent to your doctor.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/05/2019.


  • Development by the clinical staff, Cleveland Clinic Children's and Pediatric Institute, Cleveland Clinic
  • American College of Radiology. Radiological Society of North America. Children's (Pediatric) CT (Computed Tomography). ( Accessed 4/1/2019.

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