We recognize that many patients have questions about radiology exams. They often want to know why a particular exam is needed and what to expect. Here are answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions.
How do CT scans, MRIs and nuclear images differ?
CT scanners take X-ray cross-sectional views of selected organs or tissue, which are then integrated through computer processing to show great detail. MRIs use a magnet and radiofrequency waves to depict multiple slices for a more multi-dimensional view, thereby providing a different kind of detail. Both show static images.
Nuclear images, however, can show movement. Highly specialized cameras take rapid pictures of areas that are highlighted with a radioactive tracer, providing information about how organs, bones or circulatory structures are functioning.
What is contrast media and when do you use it?
Contrast media refers to a liquid substance that is injected or swallowed. It travels to a specific site, highlighting that site to show extra detail during your diagnostic test. Different kinds of contrast media are used for different purposes.
Sometimes the prescribing physician requests contrast media; other times our radiologist decides that it is necessary.
Do I need to do anything to prepare for my test?
It depends on what exam your physician has requested. Usually, little preparation is required. One major exception is any test that highlights the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach, intestines). You may be asked to stop eating or drinking 4- 24 hours before an exam. Check the section titled Preparing for Diagnostic Tests for more information.
We recommend that you wear loose clothing for any exam, so you can remove or adjust clothing easily. Also, it's best to leave valuable jewelry and excess cash at home.
What if I have a medical condition that affects my ability to prepare for tests or undergo tests?
You should always inform us of any special needs or medical conditions - including pregnancy - when we schedule your exam. We will take your needs into account when we schedule your test, and provide you with any special instructions.
Should I continue to take my medications before my procedure?
The answer is YES (unless your doctor specifically tells you to stop a medication)! Even if you are not supposed to eat or drink before an exam, you still should take your medications, drinking as little water as possible.
If you're diabetic and take insulin, you should ask for one of our earliest appointments if you need to fast before the exam. Bring your insulin and breakfast with you so you can take them after your exam is over.
I've heard that patients can feel very claustrophobic during MRIs. What if I can't complete the scan due to claustrophobia?
Some patients find that headphones with music help divert their attention during an MRI. You can also have your doctor prescribe medication that will help you relax, BUT the best option is to try our open bore MRI at our affiliate site, Clinical Imaging, you can call them at 301.681.0733
How long does it take to have a radiology test?
Some tests take very little time, such as X-rays, bone density and mammograms, for example. Other tests such as MRI, CT, ultrasound or nuclear imaging can take up to an hour or more. We make every effort to keep to a schedule, so you won't have a long wait before your scheduled exam. However, the need for emergency tests sometimes arises, which can cause a short delay. You also should factor in some time to complete paperwork and change clothes, when necessary.
When do I get the results of my test?
We fax or mail results in a timely manner to the physician who prescribed the test. We also can mail test results to patients upon request. However, typically your physician will notify you of test results and discuss any follow-up treatment.
It's important to note that our technologists cannot give you results at the end of the test. Although they are highly trained to perform exams, they are not qualified to interpret results. Our radiologists have years of training and experience, so they analyze all tests and report the results to your physician.
Will I be exposed to any radiation?
For some tests - X-rays, mammograms, CT scans and nuclear scans, for example - patients are exposed to small amounts of radiation. Please be assured that we use equipment and radioactive tracers that minimize your exposure to radiation, as well as follow rigorous quality control practices for your safety.
Will the test hurt?
We make every effort to keep our patients comfortable. The vast majority of our patients report little or no discomfort.
Mammograms do require some compression of your breast tissue to obtain detailed images. Because some women find this uncomfortable, we offer MammoPads, which cushion the breasts somewhat and relieve discomfort. Other tests may require an injection of a radioactive tracer or contrast to provide greater detail. This injection is no different than a regular shot in your doctor's office.
Do you perform blood work at your office?
Yes, we perform blood work to evaluate kidney function
What are your technologists' qualifications?
Our technologists all have completed rigorous training programs at qualified schools. They all are registered and licensed and pursue continuing education in their fields. Finally, our radiologists work closely with our technologists to update their knowledge and skills on an ongoing basis.
We encourage our patients to ask questions. After all, well-informed patients serve as their own best health care advocates!