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Tests and Services

Computed Tomography (CT Scan)

Children’s team performs more than 3,000 CT procedures each year utilizing state-of-the-art equipment. This test is only performed at Children's National Medical Center-Main Hospital location.

David Wessel, MD, Senior Vice President of the Center for Hospital-Based Specialties and Raymond Sze, MD, Chief of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology are pleased to announce that the American College of Radiology’s (ACR) Commission on Quality and Safety has granted accreditation to the following diagnostic imaging programs:
-Computed Tomography
-Nuclear Medicine

Attaining the ACR Gold Seal of Accreditation is an arduous process that involves submission of physician and staff credentials, safety policies, detailed quality assurance records for each scanner, radiation dose calibrations for the ionizing radiation-producing scanners, and multiple samples of actual clinical images from each scanner. All data and images submitted are analyzed by a group of expert radiologists and medical imaging physicists who determine if the site meets the highest standards of quality and safety.

Children’s Division of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology (Sheik Zayed campus location) achieved this high honor and is now ACR Accredited for a 3-year term. Congratulations to the faculty and staff for their commitment to high quality patient care, patient safety, and overall excellence in imaging.

What is a CT scan (computed tomography)?
In conventional x-rays, a beam of energy is aimed at the body part being studied. A plate behind the body part captures the variations of the energy beam after it passes through skin, bone, muscle, and other tissue. While much information can be obtained from a regular x-ray, specific detail about internal organs and other structures is not available.

With a computed tomography scan (also called CT or CAT scan), the x-ray beam moves in a circle around the body. This allows for many different views of the same organ or structure, and provides much greater detail. The x-ray information is sent to a computer that interprets the x-ray data and displays it in two-dimensional form on a monitor.

CT scans may be done with or without contrast. Contrast refers to a substance taken by mouth or injected into an intravenous (IV) line that causes the particular organ or tissue being studied to be seen more clearly.

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What is the preparation for a CT scan?
Your child may need sedation for the test. Your nurse or physician will discuss the procedure and necessary preparation with you.

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How is the CT scan performed?
The CT scanner is located in a large room. Your child will lie on a narrow table that slides into the hollow tube-shaped scanner.

Your child may have an intravenous (IV) line for contrast medication. The contrast medication may be injected prior to the procedure or during the procedure.

The CT staff will be in an adjacent room where the equipment controls are located. However, they will be able to see your child through a large window and will be monitoring him/her constantly during the procedure. Speakers are located inside the scanner so that your child can hear instructions from the CT staff and they can hear your child respond.

Once the procedure begins, your child will need to remain very still at all times so that movement will not adversely affect the quality of the images. At intervals, he/she will be instructed to hold his/her breath, if possible, for a few seconds. Your child should not have to hold his/her breath for longer than a few seconds, so this should not be uncomfortable. Young children who cannot hold still for the procedure will be given medication to help them relax or sleep during the CT scan.

If the CT scan is being done with and without contrast, your child will receive contrast medication through an IV about halfway through the procedure. He/she may feel warm or flushed just after the dye goes into the vein—this is a normal feeling and it will go away shortly.

Once the procedure is finished, the table will slide out of the scanner. If your child received medication for relaxation or sleep, he/she will be monitored until the medication wears off and he/she is awake again. If an IV was inserted, it will be taken out after the procedure is over and your child is awake.

You may be asked to wait for a short time while the radiologist reviews the scans to make sure they are clear and complete. If the scans are not sufficient to obtain adequate information, additional scanning may be done.

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What happens after the procedure?
Without sedation, your child should be able to resume normal activities immediately, unless your child's physician instructs you otherwise.

With sedation, your child may feel groggy, tired, or sleepy for a period of several hours after the procedure. The nurses and doctors will monitor your child until they are sure he/she is ready to go home.

Depending on the results of the CT scan additional tests or procedures may be scheduled to gather further diagnostic information.

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Computed Tomography (CT Scan) - Departments & Programs - Children's National Medical Center