• International Society of Paediatric Oncology Europe Neuroblastoma


Your child is having a CT scan

A CT (computed tomography) scan uses x-rays and computers to take pictures of the internal structures of a child’s body. The CT scanner is a large doughnut-shaped machine with a hole in the centre through which a special bed can move. The scan can last anywhere from five minutes to 20 minutes, depending on the area and complexity of the scan. Although the bed will move through the scanner, it will not come into contact with your child.

What does the scan involve?

Your child will need to lie on a special bed, either head first or feet first depending on the part of his or her body being scanned. When your child is in the correct position, the radiographer/technologist will go into the control room to operate the scanner. This will involve moving the bed up and sliding it through the middle of the scanner. The scanner will make some quiet noises while the pictures are being taken. The radiographer will be able to talk to you and your child throughout the scan using the in-built microphone. Doctors called radiologists, who are trained to interpret CT scans, may come and check the pictures before the scan is finished. When the test has finished, the radiographer will move the bed away from the scanner so that your child can get up and leave.

Are there any risks?

CT scans are only ever performed if the benefits outweigh the risks involved. CT does use radiation, but the dose is kept as low as possible. This is because the radiographers/technologists are specially trained to obtain the best quality pictures while using the lowest amount of radiation possible.

Your child will need to lie very still for the scan, so in many centres their policy may include sedation of your child for the CT examination. Some scans may need a small injection of radiographic contrast (dye) to help show up an area more easily. Local anaesthetic cream may be applied if your child requests that, depending on local practices.

Your child is having an MRI

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan uses a magnetic field rather than X-rays to take pictures of your child’s body. The MRI scanner is a hollow machine with a tube running horizontally through its middle. Your child will lie on a bed that slides into the tube. An MRI scan usually lasts between 20 minutes and one hour. 

The following short film (produced by Great Ormond Street Hospital) shows what a scan involves:

Are there any alternatives?

Your child may need this scan so that their doctors can get detailed pictures of the size and shape of part of your child’s body. Various types of scan such as CT, ultrasound and X-rays can show the size and shape of parts of your child’s body, but often not in as much detail as an MRI scan. The information from the scan is then used to help with diagnosis and plan their treatment.

What does the scan involve?

Your child will need to lie on the bed for the scan. Depending on the part of their body being scanned, they may need to have a coil over part of their body or wear a head coil (this will not touch their head).

When your child is in the correct position, the radiographer/technologist will move the bed inside the scanner and then go into the control room. The scanner will make a continuous knocking sound throughout the scan, which can be quite loud, but we will give you and your child ear protectors to minimise any discomfort. If your child is watching a DVD, or listening to a CD, this will distract from the noise too.

The radiographer will generally warn you and your child when a loud noise is due by talking to them through an intercom. When the scan has finished, the radiographer will move the bed out of the scanner and your child can get up and leave.

Medicines given during an MRI scan

Your child may receive some medicine during the MRI scan to make the image clearer. The radiographer will tell you which medicines your child has had in case of later side effects. The medicines most often used include: Gadopentetate dimeglumine (Magnevist®) or Gadoteric acid (Dotarem®). These contrast agents (‘dyes’) make blood vessels and any inflammation show up more clearly on the pictures. They are given as an injection. A possible side effect is hypersensitivity, but this will normally be an immediate effect. There are no reported long term side effects in children.

Are there any risks?

There are no risks associated with MRI scans. They are painless with no lasting effects. The scanner does not touch your child during the scan. MRI scans are not suitable for people with certain metal implants inside them (such as pacemakers) because the scanner emits a strong magnetic field. This is why a thorough metal check is carried out before your child has the scan.

SIOPEN meetings

Forthcoming meetings:

Berlin (Germany) AGM

25-27 October 2017 

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SIOPEN Verein zur Foderung der Neuroblastomforschung is an Association registered in Austria and recognised as a non-profit organisation according to the Austrian Federal Tax Code (Bundesabgabenordnung BAO). Registration number ZVR 396592912. The SIOPEN Association was officially established on 20 January 2009.

This website makes use of stock photography and images do not represent particular individuals treated by SIOPEN institutions.