Imaging Procedures

Shared Health supports patient care with a variety of Diagnostic Imaging Services. You can learn more about each kind of imaging procedure below.

A bone density scan checks your bone mineral density to see how strong your bones are. To perform the bone density scan, an enhanced form of x-ray technology called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is used. A small x-ray beam is used to take a picture of the hip and lower back. The x-rays used are low-dose, so the amount of radiation used is extremely small.

Bone density scans measure the density of bones in the spine and hip, and possibly the forearm or total body. This information will help your practitioner determine your risk of broken or fractured bones due weakness in your bones.

How to prepare:

  • Preparation instructions will be mailed to you with your appointment letter.
  • You should not take any calcium supplements for 2 days prior to the test, but you may continue with all other medications.
  • Do not wear any clothing with zippers or other metal (including underwire bras).
  • Do not have any diagnostic imaging tests involving contrast media performed for at least two weeks prior to your test (e.g. CT scan, Nuclear Medicine, stomach x-ray, bowel x-ray or MRI). If you are unsure, speak to your medical practitioner.
  • Please bring your completed questionnaire (mailed along with your appointment letter) to your appointment. The questionnaire asks questions about your past x-rays, fractures, hip or spine surgeries, family history of hip fractures and age of menopause. If you did not receive the questionnaire, please arrive 15 minutes early to allow extra time to fill one out. Note: you will need your medication list for this questionnaire.

What to expect:

  • A Nuclear Medicine Technologist will perform the bone density scan. You will be asked to remove your shoes so that you can be weighed and your height measured.
  • During the procedure, you will lie flat on a bed and an x-ray camera will be positioned over one of your hips and lower back. A large foam block will be placed under your knees for the spine scan. The scanner moves back and forth over top of you but does not touch you.
  • The weight limit for our bed is 204 kilograms (450 pounds).
  • A bone density scan is a simple, non-invasive procedure. Like a regular x-ray scan, the bone density test is painless, though you may be asked to hold an uncomfortable position for a short time. The appointment will last approximately 15 minutes, and results will be sent to your practitioner.
  • There are osteoporosis pamphlets available in the waiting room and a video available for your viewing.

Results:

  • Your technologist cannot provide you with a diagnosis or test results. The practitioner who ordered the test will contact you to discuss results and next steps with you.

A Computed Tomography is an examination that uses specialized x-ray equipment to make detailed pictures of structures inside the body. It can be used to study many parts of your body, including organs, blood vessels, bones and spinal cord. Sometimes, a contrast material is injected into the blood to assess organs and structures that would otherwise not be seen, or to assess the function of certain organs.

Diagnostic Ultrasound uses sound waves to obtain pictures of the internal structures and organs in your body. Most people know about ultrasound because it is used to capture pictures during pregnancy. But ultrasound is also used to look at many other organs such as the kidneys, liver, uterus, heart, and blood vessels.

How to prepare:

  • The instructions for how to prepare for an ultrasound examinations will be provided to you when the appointment is made. Depending on why you are having an ultrasound, you may have no preparation at all. For some tests, you may be required to stop eating and drinking for up to six hours before the test. In other tests, such as pelvic ultrasounds, you will be asked to drink water and not urinate before the exam; a full bladder creates better images of the uterus, ovaries and/or prostate.

What to expect:

  • At your ultrasound, the technologist – called a sonographer – will ask you to lie down on an examination table. Gel will be applied to your skin where the test is being done. The sonographer will move a small hand-held device above the area needing examination. As the device is moved over your body, the sonographer will apply pressure, which is necessary to capture the required images, so you may experience some discomfort.
  • Every ultrasound exam is different. While most exams will take 30 minutes to complete, some exams will take as little as 10 minutes and others may take up to an hour. Please be patient; it is important for the sonographer to take all the images needed by the radiologist to provide your doctor with a complete report to your doctor.

Results:

  • Your sonographer cannot provide results during the ultrasound. When your exam is complete, a specialized doctor called a radiologist will look at the images and send a report to your doctor. Most often, results are provided to your doctor within a few days. However, if your ultrasound exam is for an urgent medical condition, your doctor will receive the results sooner.

An EKG – or electrocardiogram test – is used to examine how your heart is functioning. It tracks patterns in your heartbeat and rhythm so that your doctor can diagnose various heart conditions.

How to prepare:

  • No special preparations are required for an EKG. You will be required to remove your top and wear a gown.

What to expect:

  • The technologist doing your EKG will ask you to lie down on an examining table. As many as 12 to 15 electrodes will be attached to your arms, chest and even legs using sticky patches and gel. The electrodes help to detect and conduct the electrical currents of your heart.
  • You can breathe normally during the test, but you will be required to remain quite still for the test, which generally takes only a few minutes. There is absolutely no pain when you have an EKG done.

Results:

  • Results from an EKG are available soon after the test. In an emergency situation, the doctor will speak to you right away. Otherwise, you should check within your doctor a few days after the test.

Fluoroscopy is a type of x-ray examination that helps a radiologist to see images of your body in motion such as how a contrast medium travels from your mouth to stomach.

When a doctor needs to understand how your heart is functioning over a longer period of time, he or she will request a special type of EKG test that can monitor a patient’s heart for 24 hours. Patients are asked to wear a special device called a Holter Monitor while carrying out their ordinary daily activities. Holter Monitoring is used to help determine whether someone has an undetected heart disease, such as an abnormal heart rhythm or inadequate blood flow through the heart.

For more information, please speak with your doctor.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic Imaging test that uses magnetic field and radio frequencies to obtain detailed images of soft tissues in your body such as the brain, heart, liver and joints.

How to prepare:

  • Before going for an MRI, you can continue to eat and drink as you normally would, unless your doctor has given you different instructions. You should dress comfortably. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and to take off jewelry and any other items that contain metal such as underwire bras, eyeglasses, and hair barrettes.

What to expect:

  • The MRI machine looks like a tube with both ends open. You will be asked to lie down on a table that slides into the tube. You will be monitored by a technologist from another room, but you can speak with him or her by microphone.
  • The MRI is completely painless. However, the machine will make repetitive tapping, thumping and other noises that can be very loud. Earplugs may be provided to help block the noise. The technologist will ask you to remain very still inside the machine as any movement will blur the images the machine is capturing.
  • Sometimes, a contrast medium is injected into the blood to assess organs and structures that are difficult to view or to assess the function of certain organs. Our technologist will speak with you beforehand if your test requires a contrast injection.
  • MRIs can last up to an hour or more. Please be patient and remain calm; the technologist is trying to capture images of everything your doctor needs to diagnose and/or treat your health issue or concern.

Results:

  • The technologist cannot provide you with results. A specialized doctor called a radiologist will look at the images and send a report to your doctor, who will discuss the findings and next steps with you.

Mammography is an x-ray examination of the breast. Mammography is used to screen for lesions before you or your doctor are aware of them, as well as to diagnose lesions that have been found through other means but need to be examined in more detail. Although many patients requiring mammography are female, there are also men who require this examination.

How to prepare:

  • As with any kind of x-ray, please dress comfortably. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any jewelry you are wearing.

What to expect:

  • The technologist doing your test will explain what he or she is doing. In brief, a device will be used to compress your breast. This helps to produce detailed pictures of the inside of your breast. You will experience some pressure, discomfort and soreness that will last for a brief time after the test.

Results:

  • The images of your breast will be reviewed by a doctor specializing in radiology (radiologist). The Radiologist will determine if the lump in the breast is normal tissue, a cyst, or a tumor and will send the report to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results of the test and your next steps if cancer is suspected.

What is a Nuclear Medicine Exam?
Nuclear medicine is a subspecialty of radiology. Nuclear Medicine is mainly used to a see how body organs work rather than looking at their structure. Nuclear medicine tests use small amounts of radioactive materials, called radiopharmaceuticals, which collect in the part of the body being looked at and gives off energy as gamma rays. A gamma camera detects these rays and works with a computer to produce images. This information is used to evaluate function of various organs, diagnose diseases or in some cases help with treatments.

How do I prepare?
Each type of nuclear medicine study will have a different preparation. Information on how to prepare should be provided when you are given the appointment for the test. For all exams, dress casually and in loose clothing when you come for a nuclear medicine procedure, as you may need to change into a gown. The technologist doing the exam will let you know exactly which clothes need to be removed for the procedure. You may also be asked to remove any jewelry such as watches, necklaces, earrings and body piercings which would interfere with acquiring images.

Please let us know if you may be pregnant or if you will be travelling/crossing borders in the few days after your test.

What is involved?
You are given a small dose of a radiopharmaceutical agent injected into a vein that localizes in specific body organ systems. Most of the radioactivity passes out of your body in urine or stool. The rest simply disappears through natural decay of radioactivity over time.

The gamma camera may look similar to a CT scanner (a large doughnut), or may look like a large circular device suspended above the imaging table. While the images are being obtained, you must remain as still as possible. This is especially true when a series of images is obtained to show how an organ functions over time.

Some minor discomfort during a nuclear medicine procedure may arise from the intravenous injection, usually done with a small needle. Lying still on the examining table may be uncomfortable for some patients. Patients who are claustrophobic may feel some anxiety while positioned in the scanner. Also, some patients find it uncomfortable to hold one position for more than a few minutes.

After the procedure, a technologist with specialized training in nuclear medicine checks the quality of the images to ensure that an optimal diagnostic study has been performed.

How long will it take?
A radiopharmaceutical agent is usually administered into a vein. Depending on which type of scan is being performed, the imaging will be done either immediately, a few hours later, or even several days after the injection. Imaging time varies, generally ranging from 20 to 60 minutes and may rarely involve visits of more than one day.

How do I get my results?
Your results will be read by a radiologist, and a report will be sent to your referring physician, who will go over the results with you.

Are there any risks?
Allergic reactions to the radiopharmaceutical can occur, but are extremely rare. The radiation exposure to the patient is small and very minimal to other people.

What is a PET Exam?
A PET scan is an imaging test done in Nuclear Medicine. It uses a radiopharmaceutical, usually a form of radioactive sugar, to image your body’s cell’s metabolism. This test is usually done either to diagnose a cancer, to see if the cancer has spread or recurred or to find out how a treatment has worked. Some PET scans are done for non-cancerous conditions. The radiopharmaceutical travels through the body and gathers in cells that are using a lot of energy, such as cancer cells. This radiopharmaceutical gives off positively charged particles (positrons). A PET camera records the positrons and turns the recording into pictures on a computer. As part of this test a CT scan is also performed to allow the radiologist to localize the areas of radiopharmaceutical uptake.

How do I prepare?
Each type of PET/CT study will have a different preparation. Information on how to prepare should be provided when you are given the appointment for the test. For all exams, dress casually and in loose clothing when you come for a PET procedure, as you may need to change into a gown. The technologist doing the exam will let you know exactly which clothes need to be removed for the procedure. You may also be asked to remove any jewelry such as watches, necklaces, earrings and body piercings which would interfere with acquiring images.

Please let us know if you may be pregnant/breast feeding or if you will be travelling/crossing borders in the days after your test. It is also important to tell the nuclear medicine staff if you are diabetic as this will alter the preparation in most cases.

What is involved?
A specially trained Nuclear Medicine Technologist will take you into a special injection room, review some paperwork and then check your blood sugar levels. If the blood sugar level is too high, it can affect the scan quality. The technologist will then inject the radiopharmaceutical into a vein of your hand or arm.

It will then take approximately 30 to 90 minutes for the substance to travel through your body and accumulate in the tissue under study. During this time, you will be asked to rest quietly and avoid significant movement or talking, which may alter the localization of the administered substance. Then, scanning begins. The scan usually takes 20-60 minutes. For the scan, you will lie down on the exam table and will be asked to stay very still. The exam table moves through the PET scanner, which is shaped like a large doughnut. Detectors in the scanner pick up the signal from the radioactive material in the body. A computer analyzes the patterns and creates images of the area being scanned.

Some minor discomfort during a nuclear medicine procedure may arise from the intravenous injection, usually done with a small needle. Lying still on the examining table may be uncomfortable for some patients. You will not feel anything related to the radioactivity of the substance in your body. Patients who are claustrophobic may feel some anxiety while positioned in the PET machine. If you feel you may be claustrophobic, please talk to your family doctor about prescribing a sedative for the scan. You will need someone to drive you home if you take a sedative. If you will not require a sedative you will be fine to drive home.

After the procedure, a technologist with specialized training in nuclear medicine checks the quality of the images to ensure that an optimal diagnostic study has been performed.

How long will it take?
Patients should allow 2-3 hours for the procedure. There are no side effects and there are no restrictions after the test is over. Patients are able to eat and drink normally after the test, although extra fluids are encouraged to help flush any radioactivity out of your system.

How do I get my results?
A radiologist who has specialized training in PET will interpret the images and forward a report to your referring physician. This often entails comparison of the PET scan with other imaging studies, such as CT or MRI.

Are there any risks?
Allergic reactions to the radiopharmaceutical are extremely rare. The radiation exposure to the patient is small and very minimal to other people. The benefits of having a PET scan outweigh the risk of exposure to the small amount of radiation received during the scan.

A stress test is a special type of EKG that provides information on how your heart functions while you are physically active. Since physical activity can make the heart work harder and pump faster, this test can reveal problems with your heart that might not be noticeable under normal conditions.

How to prepare:

  • Your doctor may ask that you avoid eating, drinking and smoking for two or more hours before a stress test. Medications should be taken as usual, unless your doctor tells you not to take them. You will want to wear comfortable clothing since you will be exercising.
  • If you have asthma or other breathing problems that require an inhaler, you should bring it with you to the test. Make sure to tell the technologist that you use an inhaler.

What to expect:

  • The technologist giving you the test will apply electrodes to your arms, chest and legs to record your heartbeat. He or she will also put a blood pressure cuff on your arm. After a conversation about your regular physical activity levels, the technologist will ask you to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. During the test, the technologist will make changes to speed, inclination and/or resistance to record how your heart performs with the additional challenges.
  • The length of your test will depend on your overall fitness level and symptoms. Generally, the goal is to work your heart for about eight to 12 minutes. You will be asked to continue exercising until your heart rate reaches a target set by the technologist or until you develop symptoms that prevent you from continuing.
  • Your technologist will discuss any other requirements for your stress test in greater detail at the time of your test.

Results:

  • Your technologist cannot provide a diagnosis or the test results. Your doctor will schedule an appointment to discuss the results and next steps with you.

X-rays are one of the fastest and most pain-free ways for a doctor to look inside a patient’s body. X-rays are used to examine bones and other organs, such as lungs, heart, and digestive system.

How to prepare:

  • If you know you will be having an x-ray, it is best to dress comfortably. Depending on what part of your body is being x-rayed, you might be asked to wear a hospital gown. If you are wearing jewelry or clothing with metal parts you may be asked to take it off.

What to expect:

  • When you are being x-rayed, the technologist will position you so he or she can get the necessary views of your body. He or she may use pillows to help you hold the position. When the X-ray is being taken, you will be asked to remain still and maybe even hold your breath to avoid moving because movement causes the picture to blur.
  • Some x-ray exams require that you be given something called a contrast medium. The contrast medium can be given in different ways depending on your test. Often, it is a thick, chalky fluid you must drink. For other tests, it can be given through a needle or as an enema. The contrast medium helps certain parts of your body to be seen in the x-ray. If you need to have it, we will send you instructions for how to prepare and our technologist will speak with you about it before your test.
  • Often, X-ray exams take only few minutes, especially to look at bones. But for procedures that require a contrast medium, the exam will take longer.

Results:

  • A doctor who specializes in x-rays, called a radiologist, usually reviews the x-ray and sends a report of his or her findings to your doctor, who can explain the results to you. In emergency situations such as broken bones, the x-ray is viewed immediately by the emergency doctor so they can begin treating the injury or problem.

 

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