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Sedation for CT scans

What is a CT scan?

A computed tomography (CT) scan is an imaging procedure that uses X-rays to take detailed pictures of the internal organs. The scan is quick and painless. More information on CT scans can be found here.

Why is sedation needed?

To achieve clear images children need to keep very still throughout their CT scan. Some children may find this difficult and sedation can help by causing a calm sleepiness while the scan is done.

What happens before I arrive?

Your child must not eat for 6 hours before sedation, but may have sips of water (please follow all instructions on your letter).

It’s helpful if your child is already sleepy so try to avoid naps on the way to hospital and we suggest a late night or early get up on the day of the scan.

Please bring with you a snuggly blanket, favourite comfort toy and a storybook to help the sedation process feel like bedtime.

What happens when I arrive in TAU?

We will ask you to arrive at the Theatre Admissions Unit (TAU) 1 hour before your child’s scan time. This is so a nurse can weigh your child, ask some questions and check their vital signs before the sedation.

Some CT scans require contrast dye to be given. If this is needed your child may also have an IV cannula put in. They can have cream to numb the skin first. More information on the use of the contrast dye can be found here.

When it’s time for the scan, the nurse will bring you and your child to radiology.

What happens when I arrive in Radiology?

When you arrive in radiology you will check in and wait to be called to CT.

Once called into the scan room the radiographer will explain the scan and what is needed. At this point, if your child is calm and relaxed, we may see if the scan is possible without sedation.

If your child is unsettled, the nurse will give the sedation as a painless nasal spray. You can comfort your child on your knee while this is done. The nurse will remain with you and your child.

As your child becomes sleepy we will dim the lights and ask you to place them onto the CT table in the right position with their blanket and toy. A story can now be read to them as they gently fall asleep. This normally happens in about 30 minutes.

If your child does not fall asleep or become settled enough to perform the scan, the nurse may give a 2nd dose of sedation as a small amount of liquid just inside the cheek.

If your child is still unsettled a further 30 mins after this, the scan may not be possible and we will consider other options.

After the scan

Once the scan is complete we will move your child onto a trolley and take them back to TAU, where the nurse will monitor them until they are awake and ready to go home.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns please call 0114 271 7238 and ask to speak to a senior radiographer.

Further information

Please read our resource for more information about risks of anaesthetics.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: RAD2

Resource Type: Article

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Western Bank
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

Interesting Facts

We’ve got a special MRI scanner just for teddies so children can see what it’s like before they have a scan.

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