Computed Tomography (CT or CAT Scan)
What is CT?
CT, or computed tomography, is a non-invasive procedure that uses X-ray equipment and powerful computers to create detailed, cross-sectional images, (or "slices") of your child's body. The CT scanner is a large machine that looks like a big doughnut. A CT scan is sometimes referred to as a "CAT scan."
How does CT work?
Your child will lie still on a table that slides into and out of the opening in the CT scanner. An X-ray tube on a rotating gantry within the "doughnut" emits controlled, narrow X-ray beams, which pass through the body and get picked up by an array of electronic detectors on the gantry's opposite side. This produces many pictures in thin, two-dimensional "slices" of the area of the body under study. The slices are then assembled by a dedicated computer, which can if necessary compile them into detailed 3-dimensional images that can be studied from all angles. No part of the CT scanner will touch a child's body, and the CT scan itself is painless.
When might CT be needed?
In children, CT is often used to investigate head injuries or acute neurological symptoms, evaluate chronic sinus symptoms or hearing loss, diagnose appendicitis, evaluate masses, assess fractures or help determine why a child has trouble breathing. Because it provides detailed views of many types of tissues, it is an excellent way to rule out disease and facilitate medical or surgical treatment.
In emergencies, a CT scan can quickly reveal internal injuries and bleeding, providing important information to the medical team that may prove life-saving.