A Guide to Diagnostic Radiology Procedures

When diagnosing medical issues, one of the most common tools that doctors and health care professionals use is radiology equipment to conduct diagnostic scans. Radiology is a method of scanning or imaging certain areas of the body to determine if there are internal issues to be treated or corrected. Medical scans are the most common way of seeing into the body without actually performing a surgery.

Diagnostic Radiology Scans

Diagnostic radiology is the method that doctors and practitioners use to see inside of the human body. Doctors may refer patients for traditional x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, PET scan, MRI, or a combination of scans. For certain types of scans, the patient may have to take a special solution, such as barium, to highlight certain areas or organs in the body so they show up more clearly in the scanned images. A radiology machine takes pictures of the highlighted areas to inform doctors if there are issues that need to be corrected or addressed.

When Do You Need a Scan?

The simple answer to this question is, whenever there are symptoms that may indicate an internal health problem that can only be detected by "viewing" the affected areas. There are a number of common symptoms that may cause a doctor to call for a radiology scan. For instance, if there is a gastrointestinal issue, a doctor can isolate the source of the problem to the abdominal or GI area and order the appropriate scanning procedure. Pain and discomfort are also common symptoms that may cause a specialist to request a scan. Certain types of cancer can also be detected and monitored with a radiology scan.

Top Diagnostic Radiology Scans Available

Doctors use a number of different types of scans to detect or track medical issues, including:

  • Breast mammography scans
  • Chest scans, including MRIs, CAT scans and x-rays
  • GI (gastrointestinal) scans
  • Neuroradiology to examine the brain, neck and spine
  • Interventional radiology scans to check the blood vessels

A qualified, licensed medical professional who specializes in radiology must perform the scan to ensure your safety and to create pictures that a radiology doctor can interpret and your doctor can use to make a proper diagnosis.

Alternatives to Radiology

Radiology uses radiation, so there are some risks involved. The American Cancer Society says that “The low doses of radiation used for imaging tests might increase a person’s cancer risk slightly” but they also suggest that you should put the risk into the proper perspective. The amount of radiation from one chest x-ray scan is roughly equivalent to the natural radiation the average person is exposed to over a 10 day period of time. However, other tests, like CT scans, deliver much higher levels with each screening.

Some experts say that CT scans should be avoided if not necessary. In some cases, doctors and hospitals order these scans unnecessarily because they are the fastest and easiest or, possibly, because they are very expensive and profitable to the practice. If you’re concerned about radiation risks, talk to your doctor about non-radiation alternatives to CT scans, such as MRIs and ultrasounds. Other alternatives to CT scans are traditional x-rays and a procedure called MR enterography to pinpoint potential problems.

The bottom line is that it is important to take the time to discuss diagnostic tests with your doctor or specialist. Don’t be afraid to request alternatives and get answers to all of your questions about radiology testing methods.

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