Your Guide to Diagnostic Imaging
If you’re experiencing certain concerning symptoms or if your doctor suspects an underlying medical condition, they might recommend diagnostic imaging. These non-invasive tests let your doctor look inside your body and get clues about medical conditions that may be difficult to diagnose. Specially trained doctors and technicians use a variety of machines and techniques to create and interpret images of your body.
The form of imaging your doctor orders will depend on your symptoms and the area of your body affected. Common types of diagnostic imaging include:
- CT Scans
- Nuclear Medicine Scans
Let’s take a closer look.
Computed tomography is a specialized form of imaging that uses sophisticated x-ray equipment to create cross-sectional scans of the body. Your doctor may use a CT scan to look for broken bones or signs of disease or dysfunction. During a CT scan, you’ll be asked to lie still on a table. This table passes slowly through an X-ray machine, and the procedure may be over in a matter of minutes. In certain instances, you may receive contrast dye, which will provide a clearer image for the doctor reading your scan.
X-rays use electromagnetic waves to create images of what’s going on inside your body. These pictures appear black, white, or grey – depending on the levels of radiation they absorb. For example, the calcium in our bones appear white on X-rays because they absorb the most radiation.
X-Rays give your doctor clues about certain medical conditions, usually fractures or broken bones. In some cases, your doctor may order an X-ray to check for pneumonia or other medical conditions. X-rays are also used in routine medical care. For example, preventive mammograms often use x-rays to periodically check for breast cancer.
Before your x-ray, a technician may ask you to put on a lead apron to shield vulnerable parts of your body from radiation. It might seem scary, but you shouldn’t worry about being exposed to too much radiation – a chest x-ray emits the same radiation you’d be exposed to from the environment over the course of a few days.
Magnetic resonance imaging uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the inside of your body. Your doctor may order an MRI instead of a CT if they are interested in examining your body’s softer tissues, which don’t show up as clearly on other tests. Your doctor may order an MRI for a number of reasons, from torn ligaments to certain types of diseases. MRIs are especially useful for getting pictures of your brain and spinal cord.
During your scan, you will lie on a table that slides into a machine, kind of like a tunnel. It’s important that you lie as still as possible. The test can take a while, and even though it is completely painless, the machine may make a lot of noise.
Before you get an MRI scan, you need to inform your doctor if you’re pregnant, have metal in your body, or have an electronic device, such as a pacemaker.
Nuclear scans are simple procedures that use radioactive substances to see what’s going on inside your body. Shortly before your test, you’ll get a small amount of radioactive material. You may be asked to swallow it or receive it as an injection. Soon after, you’ll lie on a table while a special camera takes images. The whole process takes about a half hour.
Your doctor may order a nuclear scan for injuries or infections or to see how your heart or lungs are working.
An ultrasound uses high-frequency waves to look at your organs and surrounding structures. Your doctor might order an ultrasound to look at a developing fetus, but they may also use ultrasound technology to look at your blood vessels, heart, liver, kidneys, or other vital organs.
Ultrasounds are completely painless. You’ll lie on a table, and a technician will spread some gel on the area to be scanned, which will help them get a better picture. The technician uses a special wand, called a transducer, to take pictures of the area.
In some cases, your doctor might ask you to drink water or avoid urination a few hours before the test. It’s important to follow their instructions so your technician can get accurate pictures. If you don’t follow all the instructions, you may have to come back to repeat the procedure.
One of the most common types of ultrasounds we administer is an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is a specialized ultrasound that assesses your heart’s structure and function. Vascular studies are another common type of ultrasound in which the doctor examines the blood flow through the major arteries and veins in your neck and extremities.
Preparing for Your Appointment
It’s natural to feel nervous before a diagnostic imaging session. However, specialized groups regulate and accredit tests and their technicians. Each imaging study outlined here is safe and effective when administered in accordance with applicable rules and regulations. Your doctor ordered these tests to help you. Plus, the benefits outweigh the risks is all of these procedures.
Be sure to discuss your medical history with your doctor and each specialist you visit with. This will help them order the correct diagnostic imaging tests and minimize the risks of any procedure.
Radiology Services at Gonzaba Urgent Care
Gonzaba Urgent Care proudly offers diagnostic imaging at its urgent care centers around San Antonio, Texas. We provide hospital-level services and care without the wait or hassle when you visit an emergency room. Our facilities, technicians, providers, and physicians are accredited and board-certified, giving you access to all the amenities from one convenient location.
We accept many forms of insurance and are committed to delivering outstanding care to every patient. To learn more about our diagnostic imaging services or to schedule your appointment, please contact us.