Has your doctor suggested some diagnostic tests for you? If you’re having symptoms that are hard to explain, diagnostic imaging is often the best way for physicians to determine the cause. Some tests can also be valuable for routine screening. Depending on what exam you are going to have, you may be nervous. You may wonder what to expect.
Here are the basics for the most common diagnostic tests.
· X-ray: An x-ray is a noninvasive test that uses a small amount of radiation to enable physicians to study the inside of your body. X-rays are used to look at bones, joints, the heart and lungs, and other organs. They can also detect the presence of foreign objects. X-rays are useful for reviewing your upper and lower GI tract. For these tests, radiologists will also use a contrast agent to help them better view the areas in question. You will either drink this liquid or have it injected in your body. Most x-rays are completely painless. They can range from 15 minutes to longer than an hour, depending on the specific procedure.
· CT scan: During a computerized tomography (CT) scan, x-rays are used to take cross-sectional views of your body, providing more detail than traditional x-rays can. These scans are often used to look at organs, tissues, and bones. Most CT scans take about 15 minutes and are painless. They can help radiologists detect tumors, look at skeletal issues, and guide biopsies. Sometimes a contrast agent will be needed.
· Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to review your organs and tissues. It is done in real time, which helps radiologists study the motion of fluid in your blood vessels. You might need an ultrasound to monitor the growth of a baby, review heart function, or assess plaque buildup. The procedure is painless and usually takes 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on your situation, you may need to fast before the test or you may need a full bladder.
· MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic waves to create two- and three-dimensional images of your body. MRIs are often used to look at internal injuries, detect tumors, check for disease, or determine if treatments are working. An MRI can take an hour or longer, and you need to lie perfectly still, so some patients are offered sedatives before the test begins. You also may need to fast before the test.
· Mammogram: This test uses a low dose of radiation to screen women for breast cancer. Before the test, you will be advised not to wear perfume, powder, or antiperspirant. The test itself requires that each breast be compressed twice, for a total of four images. Some women report that the test can be uncomfortable, but it is usually quick.
· Bone density testing: One of the best bone density tests is duel-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), which uses x-rays to review the health of your bones. The test is painless and usually takes about 15 or 20 minutes.
· Nuclear medicine: This is a branch of medical imaging that helps diagnose heart disease, certain cancers, and many other conditions. It uses small amounts of radioactive material to help physicians review the inside of your body. In some cases, you may need an IV or a catheter. You may feel uncomfortable when those are inserted, but otherwise, the test is painless.
Before undergoing any of these tests, you will be given instructions about any restrictions or directions you should follow. Be sure to tell your physician if you are pregnant or could be pregnant.
At Denton Regional Medical Center, we offer a wide range of diagnostic imaging tests, including x-rays, CT scans, MRI, ultrasound, and nuclear medicine. Most of these services, as well as DEXA screening, are also available at Mayhill Diagnostic, our outpatient imaging center. Mammography services are offered through our partners at Solis Women’s Health.
To learn more about diagnostic imaging, visit us online or call (940) 898-0629 for a physician referral. Serving Denton and North Texas, we’re here to help protect your health.