Doctors at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital are used to dealing with patients with all sorts of different needs.

But this 1,900-year-old patient, who had come all the way from Egypt, was definitely one of the most unusual.

The three-foot Egyptian mummy had been on display in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum for the past 20 years.

And although it looked like a small child, experts were never sure what was hidden beneath its bandages.

But on Saturday, the 2,000-year-old mystery was solved when historians put the mummy through a hospital scanner, usually used to diagnose broken bones or tumours.

It is believed to be the first time a computed tomography (CT) scanner has been used in Oxford to examine a mummy.

Chris Alvey, a research radiographer for Oxford University, said: "It's had a lot of interest from the public because it looks like a child.

"But the Ashmolean asked the question is it a child? If a body had decomposed too far, sometimes the Egyptians would mummify a dog or a cat and make it look like a child.

"We asked was it in fact a child, or was it something else? Would it be possible to determine the gender or its possible age, health and the cause of death?"

And he said the 2,500 images produced by the 10-minute scan in the JR's accident and emergency department had certainly helped.

Mr Alvey said: "We think it's in fact a little boy, possibly aged between four and seven. He may have had a problem with his right hip and may have suffered from pneumonia.

"It really gives you a perspective of your place in the world and time. It really makes you think about the transiency of things the fact that we were looking at the bones of something that had died 2,000 years ago, somebody's son."

He added at first glance it was hard to tell what was linen, embalming resin and bone, and said he hoped to produce a flesh reconstruction of what the boy would have looked like.

Experts believe the boy was originally from the Faiyum region of Egypt and was excavated from the Hawara cemetery in the winter of 1888 to 1889.

Three months' planning went into the project, with the mummy being taken from the Ashmolean Museum to the hospital by specialist courier on Saturday morning, then transferred to the scanner by hospital trolley.

Mr Alvey said the mummy should be back on display at the Ashmolean today, and added he hoped to install his findings and reconstructions alongside the exhibit within the next few weeks.