There are many ways doctors use imaging to diagnose or monitor a medical condition. Different types of scans are used for different conditions, and the kind of scan your doctor orders will depend on your symptoms. Imaging scans are relatively safe and carry minimal risks, but you’ll feel more prepared if you know what to expect.
One of the most common types of scans is a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. An MRI can detect nerve injuries, tumors, head injuries, stroke, or even the cause of a chronic pain. There is no radiation involved in an MRI since it uses radio waves and magnetic fields to scan the body.
MRIs are frequently prescribed due to its lower risk of complications compared to other scan types but patients can sometimes experience claustrophobia inside the machine. Open MRIs are sometimes prescribed instead of the traditional scan to combat MRI claustrophobia. Contrast materials are sometimes used during an MRI to produce clearer images.
Before your MRI, make sure you fill out the screening questionnaire fully and honestly. Tell the radiologist or technician if you have any medical device implants, pacemakers, or knee or hip replacements. Mention any tattoos as well; these can cause burns or skin irritation during the exam, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
An MRI can be loud, and nearly all technicians will offer earplugs when you arrive for your appointment. MRI side effects are minimal and may include headache or nausea but are most common when contrast dyes are used. An MRI can take between 10 minutes to an hour to complete.
X-rays are one of the most common types of scans. According to the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation that can pass through most objects, including the human body. As X-rays travel through the body, different tissues absorb them in different amounts.
An X-ray can typically be completed in 15 minutes or less, and use less radiation than a CT scan. X-rays are used in mammography to detect and diagnose breast cancer. X-rays are also useful for finding pneumonia, certain tumors or abnormal masses, and bone fractures.
Computerized tomography (CT) and computerized axial tomography (CAT) are two names for the same type of scan. This scan combines several X-ray images taken from multiple angles to create cross-sectional “slices” of bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues. A CT/CAT scan can be performed on every area of the body and provides greater clarity than traditional X-rays.
An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to take images of the inside of the body. The scan is performed by applying a water-based gel and then gliding a transducer over the area to be scanned. The transducer sends sound waves into the body and then receives the echoing waves to form an image. An ultrasound is, but it can also detect and diagnose conditions that affect the body’s organs and soft tissues.
Your doctor may either instruct you to fast (not eat or drink for a number of hours) before the test or to drink a certain number of glasses of water to make sure your bladder is full. An ultrasound takes between a half an hour to an hour, and does not require anesthesia or medication.
Medical imaging is a useful tool for diagnosing and detecting certain conditions and illnesses, and the benefits outweigh the minimal risks. If you have concerns, be sure to talk to your doctor before undergoing any testing.
To book a scan, visit us at Medmo.com. Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.