What is a CT Scan?
C.T. scan is the short way of saying Computerized Axial Tomography. This test is sometimes also called a CAT Scan. The CT scan uses a special kind of x-ray and a computer to see inside your body. It takes pictures of things that a regular x-ray can not see.
What does the CT machine look like?
The CT is a large machine with a big opening in the middle, like the hole in a donut. The machine has a camera inside. You lie on a narrow bed and the bed moves into the donut hole until the part of your body that the doctor wants pictures of is under the camera. As the machine takes pictures of those parts of your body the bed will move a bit further into the ?donut hole.? It makes buzzing and clicking sounds. The machine does not touch you. After the CT scan is done, the bed moves out of the hole. The technologist will help you off the bed, and you will be brought back to your room.
What happens when I have the CT Scan?
A porter will come and bring you to the area where you will have the CT scan. A technologist (the person who will take the pictures) will greet you and explain what will happen.
You will then get on a bed that moves in and out of the ?donut hole.? Depending on what area the doctor wants pictures of, you may need to be given a contrast. Contrast is a special liquid that will help to highlight the area the doctor wants to see, it will make it look bright in the pictures. The contrast has to go into an IV. You may already have one, if you do not have one, you will need to have an IV. The IV is a small straw that goes into the vein usually in your hand. This is the quickest way to get the highlighter into your body. You will feel a pinch from the poke of the IV, and it may hurt a little. When they put the contrast into the IV, you may feel a cool or stinging sensation from the contrast going in. The technologist will then get you set up on the bed. Once you are ready, the technologist will leave the room and watch you through a window. This is were they will be taking the pictures from. They will still be able to hear and see you, and you will be able to hear them talk to you. Sometimes, someone like a family member can stay with you during the test. They will have to wear a special heavy lead vest. This is for safety reasons.
The technologist might talk to you through a speaker in the next room. You will hear their voice telling you when to hold your breath for a few seconds, when to breathe and when you are finished the test.
What will it feel like?
Having a CT does not hurt. You need to lie very still so the picture won?t be fuzzy. If you are moving a lot they will have to retake the pictures. This will make the test much longer then it has to be. Usually it takes about 30 mins for a CT scan, this also depends on what area of your body is being looked at. It might help to pass the time if you think about your favourite things or count in your head.
Preparing for the test.
Your nurse will give you the information you need to help you get ready to have your CT scan. Depending on what they are taking a picture of sometimes you will not be allowed to eat or drink anything.
Sometimes you may be given a medicine to help you relax if you have a hard time lying still.
If you have any questions about the test, always ask!
Click below to watch a video about coming to Sickkids for a CT Scan
All content is for educational purposes only. For further information, please speak with your health care team.