What Are the Reasons for a CT Scan of a Baby?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2018
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A computed axial tomography scan (CAT) is an advanced radiological procedure using a machine that takes cross-sectional images of the body from every possible angle. When a doctor orders a CAT scan of a baby, also called a CT scan, any number of potential medical problems may be suspected. It could be in response to trauma, since a CT scan can give physicians a quick-but-accurate picture of internal injuries. This scan might also be used to confirm a doctor's suspicions of a tumor, cyst, organ damage or internal bleeding that may be too difficult to gauge with a simple x-ray.

Ordinary x-ray images allow doctors to clearly gauge whether any bones or heavy cartilage has been damaged in a baby's body. When health problems arise involving less-dense structures like organs, glands, blood vessels or muscle tissue, a CT scan of a baby may be needed. Since this could entail remaining still for a half-hour or more on a bed inside the scanning machine, some radiologists prefer to have a baby mildly or generally sedated by an anesthesiologist before the test. Though most of these tests involve no pain or injections, certain diagnostics will require a contrast dye injection to better illuminate certain arteries, veins or organs.


Injuries being treated in an emergency room often prompt a CT scan of a baby. Other times, a doctor may suspect abnormal organ activity or other internal disorders. In many cases, a baby's head or entire body will be strapped to the CT scanner bed to keep them from moving. Confirmation of many diagnoses can be made immediately or just after a CT scan of a baby, which can then be shared with family members.

In these often-painful situations, parents are likely to be asked to accompany their child to help keep him or her as calm and motionless as possible. Depending on the nature of the injury or illness, a scan might entail just the head being placed inside the scanning machine or almost the entire body. The scanner will roll completely around targeted areas of the body, creating images that later can be reconstructed to present a near-complete picture of internal conditions.

A CT scan of a baby may require an empty stomach, particularly if anesthesia or dye will be administered. This can typically be accomplished by refraining from eating or drinking anything for about two hours beforehand. Just before the test, a parent may be required to change his or her baby into a hospital gown and remove all the baby's jewelry.



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