Why Are Special Imaging Tests Ordered?

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Why Special Imaging Tests are Ordered

You might have gone to the doctor’s office or to the emergency room after an accident and they might have ordered X-rays, CT scans, MRI’s or other imaging tests. Or you might be watching sports and it is announced an injured player will be going in for further tests. Do you wonder why certain tests are ordered and why? Tests are not ordered arbitrarily; there are considerations taken when making these decisions.

X-rays are the most commonly known diagnostic imaging tests ordered and are more cost-effective than other tests. X-ray machines send a beam of high-energy ionizing radiation through the body. When the beam passes through the body, hard and dense tissue (such as bone) blocks and absorbs the beam. This is why bone shows up white on x-rays. Muscles and soft tissue will show up as shades of gray because some of the beam will be absorbed and some passes through. The air in the lungs and gas in the stomach and intestines will show up black in the x-ray.

X-rays are ordered when there are suspicions of bone fractures, such as pain and swelling in an area after a trauma injury, to look for a foreign object in the body; when there are signs of pneumonia in the lungs; or used as routine screenings for cancer and other diseases. Although x-rays use radiation, advancements have been made that the radiation levels are at a safe level. If the x-rays are performed for routine screening on a consistent basis, the healthcare provider will monitor the radiation dose the body absorbs in a period of time. But overall, x-rays are safe and effective for its purpose.

CT (Computed Tomography) scan uses x-rays and computer technology to create a more in-depth look into the body’s structure, especially bone. A person lies on a table and slides into a donut-like machine where a series of x-rays are taken at different angles creating cross-section images of bone, organ and tissues. CT scans are ordered after a trauma injury to the spine, head or body to rule out any fractures, internal bleeding, or damage to internal structures and organs. CT scans can also be used in detecting diseases such as tumors, cancers and other masses and to monitor diseases and conditions. CT scans use more ionizing radiation than in x-rays since CT scans show more detailed images of the body. The lowest radiation dose needed is used for the scans.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans use a magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed 3-D and cross-sectional images of the structures in the body. MRI scans are more effective in imaging soft tissues of the body, such as the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, cartilage, muscles and other organs in the body.

The MRI is an open-ended tube-like structure where a person lies on a table and is slid into the machine. MRI’s do not use ionizing radiation such as x-rays or CTs but does use very strong magnets. The MRI machine creates a strong magnetic field that causes the atoms in your body to align in the same direction. The machine creates energy by turning on and off radio waves, which passes to the body, moving the atoms out of position and then back. The computer then interprets the radio signals into images. It is very important to let the doctor and MRI facility know if there are any metals inside your body such as filters and stents, pacemakers, metal from joint replacement surgery, have worked with metal or have had any bullet wounds. If you are claustrophobic, an open MRI machine may be considered.

Bone Scans detect fractures and metabolic activity, such as cancer, in the bones. Radioactive material is injected into a vein, which then gets absorbed by the cells and tissues of the body. A specialized camera then takes pictures of the body, which shows the areas of the bones that the radioactive material has collected. The radioactive material shows up as black coloring in the images.

Diagnostic Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the organs and structures in the body. The transducer or probe of the ultrasound machine sends sound waves into the body. The sound waves then bounce back off of the structures and are captured by the probe, which then get interpreted as images on a screen. Diagnostic Ultrasound is more commonly used to examine organs in the body and to monitor pregnancies.

– Chandra Cunningham, DC

If you or somebody you know has been in a car accident, be sure that you seek medical attention from a car accident doctor or car accident chiropractor to treat your injuries. Visit Chambers Medical Group  to receive world-class medical treatment for your injuries.

Chambers Medical Group has car accident medical clinics in the following locations:

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