CT Scan

Computed tomography (CT) is a type of diagnostic imaging test that may be used to diagnose pediatric retinoblastoma. After a pediatric retinoblastoma diagnosis is confirmed, a CT scan may also help specialists to develop a personalized treatment plan for the child.

What Is a CT Scan?

A CT scan uses X-rays to create cross-sectional images. This means that the machine takes several pictures from several different angles. During a CT scan, the scanner rotates around the patient while taking several pictures. The pictures are then combined to form the cross-sectional images. These images are called slices. Viewing a CT scan slice may be compared to viewing a slide of bread.

Spiral CT Scan

A number of medical facilities use a new type of CT scan called a spiral or helical CT. A spiral CT scan takes less time than a standard CT scan. An additional benefit is that a spiral CT scan uses less radiation during the test. This equates to lower radiation exposure for the child.

CT Scan Process

Before undergoing a CT scan, parents of retinoblastoma patients should speak with the doctor. Parents should ensure that they fully understand the process, its risks and benefits, and what it entails. Parents and children who are old enough to understand should ask as many questions as necessary regarding the process.

Before a CT Scan

Prior to a CT scan, the child may be given a special contrast dye through an intravenous (IV) injection. This contrast dye helps to create a better outline of bodily structure in the CT scan results. In some patients, the contrast dye causes flushing, or the feeling of warmth. Flushing occurs most often in the face.

During a CT Scan

The child will lie down on a special table throughout the duration of the CT scan. During the CT scan, the table will slide in and out of the CT scanner. The CT scanner is a ring-shaped machine surrounding the table. In some cases, the child is sedated before the test to ensure stillness, which in turn ensures higher-quality pictures.

CT Scan Risks

Some children may have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used in certain CT scans. Typically, allergic reactions consist of hives. In severe cases, an allergic reaction may cause low blood pressure or difficulty breathing. If children have experienced allergic reactions to prior X-rays, the doctor should be notified immediately.

Radiation Exposure

Due to the fact that CT scans use radiation, the child will be exposed to small doses of radiation during the procedure. Parents should be aware that radiation exposure carries a slight risk causing other cancers in the future. For this reason, many doctors opt for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) instead. MRI does not use radiation, and is therefore considered generally safer.


Bahrami, Armita, et al. “A novel retinoblastoma therapy from genomic and epigenetic analyses.” Nature 481.7381 (2012): 329+. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.

Bahritdinova, Fazilat, and Ziyavuddin Islamov. “Clinical characteristics and differential diagnosis of retinoblastoma.”Medical and Health Science Journal 12 (2012): 2+. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Dec . 2013.

Bai, Shuwei, et al. “Delay in the Diagnosis of Retinoblastoma in China.” Acta Ophthalmologica 89.1 (2011): e72-e74. MEDLINE with Full Text. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.