Medical imaging is a great way to obtain highly detailed information about the inner workings of the body. Imaging tests can uncover diseases and injuries and help doctors devise the best possible treatment plan. There are many types of medical imaging, each serves a different purpose.
Computed Tomography (CT Scan)
CT scans are used to examine the spine, bones, head, organs, and blood vessels to diagnose injuries. This type of imaging is also used to determine the location and size of tumors.
A CT scan test involves multiple images from a variety of angles. The pictures are combined electronically into highly detailed, cross-sectional images.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRIs are the go-to test for diagnosing serious soft tissue (cartilage and ligaments), joint and bone injuries. They are helpful in comparing abnormal and normal tissues to clearly display the differences.
Radio waves and an intense magnet are used in an MRI scan to create the precise, cross-sectional images.
An ultrasound exam is used during pregnancy to monitor the growth and development of a fetus. This imaging test is also used to assess and diagnose cancer, infections, breast lumps and to check for healthy blood flow.
High-frequency, inaudible sound waves are transmitted during an ultrasound, and the echoes are transformed into recorded images of body structures.
Medical Imaging and Radiation Exposure
The biggest concern with medical imaging is radiation exposure. CT scans use a high level of radiation and can cause side effects when performed too often, or without a valid reason. Contrast material is used sometimes in certain tests, particularly MRI scans. Several problems can result if the patient is allergic to the dye. Side effects can range from moderate to life-threatening. In addition, anything metal can interfere with MRI results, such as body piercings or a pacemaker. Metal objects or devices on or in the body can cause serious injury due to the strong magnetic force in the MRI machine.
Consider all of the benefits and risks of each medical imaging test so you and your doctor can determine the best treatment course for you.