CT Scans Under Sedation for Babies and Children

Children’s Services Colchester Hospital Turner Road Colchester CO4 5JL


Children’s Ward Tel: 01206 746208 or 746209 Children’s Elective Care Unit Tel: 01206 744237

What is a CT scan?

A CT scan (short for computerised tomography) is a type of X-ray that shows up more than just the hard parts of the body, like bone. The beam of X-rays moves in a circle around the body, providing different views of the same organ or tissue in much greater detail than a conventional X-ray.

More Information

Your doctor has requested your child has a CT scan to help diagnose your child’s condition and plan treatment.

The CT uses X-rays and there are known risks with radiation. CT scans result in a low level exposure and the amount of radiation children receive from a CT scan is limited.

You will be asked to attend the Children’s Elective Care Unit before the scan. Your appointment letter will give you details of date and time and there is a map on the back page of this leaflet.

On arrival you will meet your nurse. A play specialist will explain what will happen during the procedure and help prepare your child using pictures and play. A doctor will see and assess your child to ensure he or she is fit for sedation.

They will also discuss consent with you.

By law we must obtain the written consent of a parent or guardian of the patient before any operation and some other procedures. The adult accompanying the child must have the legal right to sign the consent form (mother/father/legal guardian).

If you are unsure about who can sign consent, please telephone before the admission date because if there is uncertainty the operation may have to be cancelled.

Staff will explain all the risks, benefits and alternatives before asking you to sign a consent form. If you are unsure about any aspect of the proposed treatment, please do not hesitate to ask us to explain again.

The radiographer may need to give an injection of contrast medium to enhance the pictures during the scan. If this is needed a small tube called a cannula will be inserted into a vein by a doctor or nurse.

Anaesthetic cream or spray will be used to make this as painless as possible. The play specialist will support your child through this procedure.

This will be done before the sedation is given. The cannula will be removed when your child has woken up from the sedation.

Sedative drugs are used to induce a deep sleep so that a planned medical procedure can be carried out.

Sedation is necessary to ensure that your child remains still during the procedure. This can only be assured if they are asleep. During this time the nurse will carefully monitor your child’s condition.

In a very small number of children, sedation may not be effective in inducing sleep. If this occurs it will not be possible for the procedure to be carried out and we will discuss the options for further investigations with you.

It is important that your child does not have anything to eat or drink before the sedation is given. Sedation is more effective if it is given on an empty stomach. It is essential that you do not give your child food or milk drinks for up to six hours before sedation. However, they can drink clear fluids (water-based drinks like weak squash) until one hour beforehand.

Babies may have breast milk until four hours before sedation.

If you do not follow these instructions your child’s procedure may need to be cancelled.

Your child is given medicine to drink which induces sleep about one hour before the procedure. It is important that the whole dose is taken for it to be effective. The nurse will support you in helping your child to swallow the medicine.

The nurse will check your child’s breathing and use a machine to measure oxygen levels. They will continue to do this until your child wakes up.

Most children wake up after a few hours, but others need longer to recover. They may feel drowsy and sleepy for several hours afterwards When your child begins to wake up they may be unsteady on their feet initially and they require supervision.

Children are generally sleepier than usual for up to 24 hours following sedation. Therefore, please arrange to take your child home by car or taxi.

If your child is not feeling nauseous, offer them something to eat and drink. Milk may be given only if your child does not feel sick or has not vomited.

Your child may have mood changes, which can make him or her irritable. This is temporary. Keep a close watch on your child until he or she is back to normal.

Do not let them ride a bike, go swimming or do sports for 24 hours.

Do not send your child to nursery or school for 24 hours.

If your child is on any medication, continue to give this as normal.

If your child is difficult to wake or you are worried about how sleepy they are, place them on their side and ring your GP for advice.

Too much sedation may affect your child’s breathing. For this reason every child is weighed and the dose of medicine is calculated for your child’s individual requirements.

Your child is also at risk of injury from falling as they may be unsteady on their feet when they wake up. They will therefore need careful supervision immediately after the procedure and for the following 24 Hours.

A nurse will accompany you and your child to the department once he or she is asleep. You will then be asked to wait outside the scanning room during the scan, but the nurse is able to see and monitor your child throughout.

For the scan vour child will need to lie on a table that will slide into the scanner. The scan usually lasts for 5-10 minutes, however, this may vary.

Your child must stay on the Children’s Elective Care Unit until he or she is fully awake and has had something to eat and drink. This will be at least two hours after the sedation is given.

The radiologist will review the scan results and within a few days a report of the scan will be sent to your consultant who will discuss the results with you at your next outpatient appointment or sooner if needed.

If you have any other concerns or queries please ask the nurse or doctor caring for your child or phone any of the numbers on the front of this leaflet.

Wristbands are used to identify hospital inpatients. When your child is in hospital it is essential that he or she is given and wears their wristband, which carries his or her name, date of birth, NHS number and hospital number. This ensures that staff can identify your child correctly and give them the right care.

When your child attends hospital you will be asked for his or her NHS number and other information, such as your address. Please be patient with this procedure as it is to ensure our records are kept up to date and to protect your child’s safety. If you do not know his or her NHS number, please don’t worry, he or she will still receive care.

Please raise any concerns in the ward or department you are in. Ask to speak with the ward sister, matron or department manager. If your concerns cannot be resolved or you wish to make a formal complaint, please call PALS (Patient Advice & Liaison Service) on 0800 783 7328, pick up a PALS leaflet or visit and search for ‘PALS’.

Your views If you or a family member has recently been in Colchester Hospital, you can tell us about your experience by searching for ‘Colchester’ on the NHS Choices website (, by writing to the address on the front of this leaflet or by filling in a ‘Friends & Family’ questionnaire at the hospital.