Why Do Doctors Order So Many Scans from Ultrasound to MRI to CT Scan?
Diagnosing a condition can be difficult if a doctor merely makes a basis on the different symptoms of a patient. It can also be difficult to identify which organ in the body is affected and to what extent the damage is if any without an imaging equipment of some type. The value of imaging equipment such as MRI, CT Scan, Ultrasound, and X-ray in the field of medicine is something considered to be indispensible and its use has made it possible to make more accurate diagnoses of different health conditions.
Understanding Medical Imaging
Medical imaging refers to the process of creating images of different parts of the body for medical purposes such as diagnosis or monitoring. Medical imaging examinations are non-invasive which means the different equipments used do not invade the skin physically. Imaging technology includes MRI, ultrasound, and radiology equipment like X-rays and CT scan.
Imaging tests are of value in the diagnosis of a large number of medical conditions and can provide useful data on different organs in the body including the brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs. Imaging tests can also help in evaluating the function of arteries in the body and in detecting the presence of tumors in the soft tissues of the body. Each imaging test provides different data and a doctor may order several imaging tests for a more comprehensive approach in diagnosis a disease.
Ultrasound imaging or sonography involves the use of high frequency sound waves to create an image of the body’s internal structures. Images show the structure and movement of internal organs since these are caught in real time. Ultrasound imaging is also capable of detecting the blood flow through blood vessels in the body.
Traditional ultrasound shows thin, flat images of different sections in the body but advancements in technology have made it possible to produce 3D and 4D images. A doctor may order an ultrasound as part of diagnosing a condition or to assess any organ damage after an illness. Ultrasound imaging helps in the visualization of the heart, blood vessels, eyes, thyroid, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, uterus, ovaries, spleen, and pancreas.
It is can also be used to visualize the brain and hips in infants and the fetus in a pregnant woman.
Aside from its diagnostic value, ultrasound imaging is also useful in needle biopsies as it serves as a guide when the needle is inserted to extract a sample.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test used to detect structural abnormalities in the body. MRI scan makes use of magnetic waves and radio waves to create images of the body’s internal structures. It gives more comprehensive data compared to other diagnostic imaging tests like ultrasound and CT scan. If a problem is seen with other imaging tests, an MRI may be ordered by the doctor to show clearer and more specific results.
The MRI scan makes use of a special machine that contains strong magnetic waves. Digital images are gathered for study and evaluation. MRI can detect bleeding, tumors, injuries, and infections within the body. Contrast material for MRI scan may be necessary when assessing for abnormal tissue. An MRI scan can be done for different parts of the body including the head (for brain and eyes), chest (heart, lungs, coronary vessels, and breast), abdomen and pelvis (kidneys, liver, gallbladder, bladder, pancreas, uterus, prostate, ovaries), bones and joints, and spine.
A computed tomography (CT) scan is an imaging examination that utilizes X-ray. A series of X-rays of the body is taken using different angles and these are arranged via computer to reveal a cross-sectional view of the different organs in the body.
CT scanning provides a 3D image of different parts of the body including soft tissues, blood vessels, bones, and organs. Doctors usually order a CT scan if there is a suspected tumor, inflammation, or injury to a part of the body.
CT scan is recommended when considering cancer, pneumonia, and bleeding in the brain. It is also commonly ordered when the results of an X-ray exam are abnormal. In case of suspected injury to the spinal cord, tendons, and ligaments, and MRI scan may provide more accurate results.
X-ray makes use of electromagnetic radiation to be able to capture an image of the body. A special film is used to record the image. Dense structures in the body will block majority of the x-ray particles such as bones and will appear white on film. Muscles, fats, and fluid will appear gray while structures with air will appear black.
An x-ray is usually ordered by the doctor for assessing the bones, teeth, lungs, heart, blood vessels, and digestive tract. Lung infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis are easily seen with X-rays and blood vessel patency may also be evaluated through the use of contrast material. X-rays are also useful in determining the location of an object in the digestive tract in cases of accidental swallowing.
Technology has come a long way in making diagnosis of a health problem faster, easier, and more accurate. Proper diagnosis of a condition is important so that a disease can be treated accordingly.
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