Medical Radiation

Choosing the right time to test

When is the right time to have a CT scan or other medical test?

Only you and your doctor can decide when the right time to have your test is. Sometimes, it might be a good idea to wait, as in the case with a sinus infection or headache that may clear up on its own. Studies are showing CT scans may be prescribed unnecessarily, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and understand your choices to make an informed decision on care.

Other times, broken bones, severe injuries or other conditions might require quick action and an imaging test.

Here are some general guidelines on testing:

  • If you and your doctor feel something is urgently wrong and need CT scan or X-ray testing to figure out what that might be, get the test your doctor recommends.
  • Children should only get CT scans when absolutely needed. Ask if there are other tests or actions – like taking time to watch how the person acts or feels – that could be substituted for the CT scan.
  • Just watching and waiting or having other tests can be as effective to diagnose appendicitis or the cause of seizures or headaches. You and the child’s doctor should talk about the benefits and risks of the testing.