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Computed tomography (CT) scan

Your child is scheduled for a computed tomography (CT) scan at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.


Test time:

Check-in time:

___ Children's - Minneapolis
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

___ Children's - St. Paul
345 North Smith Avenue
St. Paul, Minnesota 55102

___ Children's Minnetonka
6050 Clearwater Drive
Minnetonka, Minnesota 55343

Please bring a list of your child's medicines and your insurance card with you. If you have questions about your insurance coverage for these services, or any special referral requirements, please contact your insurance company directly. They will advise you about your plan's coverage.

If your child has had radiology tests for this problem at another facility (not Children's), please bring the CD or films with you.

A parent or legal guardian must accompany children younger than 18 years old.

What is a CT Scan?

A CT scan is a specific kind of X-ray. The scanner makes cross-sectional images (pictures) of body tissues.

How is the test done?

A staff person will take you and your child into an exam room and explain the test. Children may wear their own clothes for the CT scan as long as there are no metal objects (such as zippers or snaps) near the part of the body to be scanned.

Sometimes a contrast material is used to give more information about your child's body. If contrast is needed, a nurse will start an IV in a vein, usually in the arm or hand. This involves a little poke, using a small IV (intravenous) needle. Once the IV is in place, the needle is removed and a tiny plastic tube stays in the vein during the scan. It should not bother your child once it is taped down. Staff will work with you and your child to determine the best way to support your child when the IV is put in.

Then you and your child will be taken to the CT scan room. You will see the large scanning machine with an opening in the middle (looks like a doughnut hole). Your child will lie on a padded imaging bed, which moves in and out of the opening smoothly.

The CT technologist will secure your child with soft wraps and blankets. The room lights will be dimmed during the CT scan. If contrast is used, it will be given into the IV during the scan. Your child may suddenly feel warm as the contrast is given.

The scanner does not touch your child. It makes whirring sounds as it is taking the pictures.

Patients must hold very still for this test. This means they should not talk. Children ages 6 and younger, or those with special needs, may be given sedation to help them hold still. The sedation is given through an IV or by mouth, depending on your child's age and health status. If you have questions about sedation or want to ask staff whether your child will benefit from being sedated, please call the radiology department at the site checked at the beginning of this sheet.

The radiologist will check the images to make sure they are complete and send a report to your child's doctor.

Can I be with my child during the test?

If not pregnant, you are welcome to stay with your child. You will be given a lead apron to wear.

If sedation is used, you may stay until your child is asleep; then you will be asked to wait in the waiting room until the exam is complete.

The amount of time this test takes depends on what part of the body is being scanned. Call the radiology department for information about the CT scan. If your child will have sedation, plan on more time before and after the scan for the medicine to be given and for your child to wake up once the scan is done.

What should we do before the test?

If sedation or contrast are used, your child should have nothing to eat or drink before the scan. You will receive a phone call with specific instructions. If your child needs any prescribed medicines within 2 hours of scan time, give them with a few sips of water only, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.

If your child is sick or doesn't feel well the day of the scan, please call the radiology department to reschedule the appointment.

Read and discuss this information with your child. Answer as many questions as you can.

To learn more about preparing and helping your child cope with this test, call the child life department. Child life specialists are trained to help children understand and cope with medical procedures and can offer advice on how to talk with and support your children. There is no charge for child life.

Children's - Minneapolis: 612-813-6259
Children's - St. Paul: 651-220-6465
Children's Minnetonka: 952-930-8773

How should I prepare my child?

Children are usually less afraid and feel more successful when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. You know your child best. The amount of detail you give will depend on your child's age and developmental level, reactions to previous health care experiences, and degree of anxiety about this test. Talking about it can help your child be more comfortable with the test, which will make the procedure easier for both of you.

Most children benefit when you use simple words to explain:

  • Why the test is needed. For example, describe the child's symptoms or problem, such as headaches, other pain, or dizziness, and that the CT scan may help find out more about what's causing that.
  • Which part of your child's body will be involved.
  • What your child might see, hear, and feel—for example, the doughnut-shaped scanner, darkened room, being wrapped snuggly.
  • Where parents or other significant care providers will be during the test: "I/we will be with you the whole time" or "We will be waiting in a room nearby until the scan is finished."
  • That it is okay for hospital staff to touch your child's body for this test.
  • That questions are welcome at any time.

For many children, a big concern is whether or not the test will hurt. The CT scan itself is painless. Assure your child that although there may be some discomfort if an IV is used, it will only last a few moments. Remind your child that the test is important because it helps find out how the body is working.

How can I support my child during this test?

Before the appointment, you and your child can:

  • practice lying down and being "as still as a statue."
  • practice relaxing. Imagine being in a favorite place or doing a favorite activity.
  • Pack comfort items, such as a stuffed toy or blanket, some familiar books or quiet toys, a pacifier for very young children. Older children and teens may want to bring an iPod® or a hand-held video game to use during waiting time.

While you wait

Research is clear that parents are most helpful to their children during stressful times when they offer distraction rather than apologies.

  • Talk about familiar, positive things – what your child likes, places you've enjoyed, activities you're planning as a family, fun times you've had, successes.
  • Sing songs together. Play games that require thinking, such as spelling words or adding and subtracting out loud. Ask young children which animals live on a farm or in the zoo and the sounds they make, or to name all the people in their family or class, and so on.
  • Read books, play "Can you guess?" and give cues about people and pets you know, things you see in the room.

During the scan

You may stand quietly with your hand on your child's hand, arm, leg, or foot. This assures him or her you are present.

What can we expect after the test?

If sedation was used, your child will need to be monitored by a nurse until awake.

After the scan, the IV contrast liquid is filtered through the kidneys and passes unnoticed in your child's urine. Encourage your child to drink an extra glass of water after the test.

The doctor who ordered the test will contact you with the results in 2 or 3 business days.

What else do we need to know?

On the day before the test, you may pre-register online at Please do this before 3 p.m. If you prefer, you can call the admitting office.

Children's - Minneapolis: 612-813-6231
Children's - St. Paul: 651-220-6878
Children's Minnetonka: 952-930-8600

Pregnant women cannot be in the exam room during the test. A family member or friend, age 18 or older, may stay with your child. Siblings may not be in the room during the test. Please have an adult stay with them in the waiting room, or sign them into the Sibling Play Area (if 2 years or older). Call to ask about hours:

Children's - Minneapolis, 2nd floor

Plan to allow extra time before the appointment, to check your children into the Sibling Play Area.


This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have questions or need more information about the test, call the radiology department at the site checked at the beginning of this sheet.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Patient/Family Education
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Last reviewed 8/2015 ©Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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