Frequently Asked Questions
What will happen during my study?
Upon arrival you will be under the care of a Registered Technologist who will perform your exam. You will be asked to lie down on an exam table during your test and every effort will be made to make you comfortable. For ultrasounds, a contact gel will be applied over the area(s) being examined. This is necessary to produce the best images. During an MRI, you will hear clanking and whirring noises. You will be provided with earplugs or head phones to help dampen the sounds. You will be able to communicate with the technologist at any time during your study. If the technologist is in a separate control room, there will be an intercom for communication.
What will happen after my study?
Once your exam is complete, it will be read promptly by a board-certified radiologist, neurologist, or physician with extensive experience in the interpretation of your particular study. Your doctor should normally have the results of the study within 24-48 hours and often the same day.
Can I have an X-Ray study if I am pregnant?
The simple answer is yes. Depending on the kind of study you are scheduled for, most X-Ray exams can be done safely and pose no harm to your unborn child. Proper safety measures are taken to ensure that your child is protected, but there are certain exams that require the child to come into direct contact with radiation (an abdominal film, for example). In these cases, consult with your physician and weigh the risks/rewards scenario for both you and the fetus.
What is the difference between a CT (Cat Scan) and a MRI?
Both are very similar in the appearance of the machines, but differ in the way they produce their images. Both have patient tables that slide into a large doughnut shaped hole (called a gantry), however, CT utilizes beams of x-radiation which pass through the patient, and then uses a computer to capture and configure that information into images. MRI does not use radiation, but instead uses very powerful magnetic fields along with high frequency radio signals to create data that, like CT, is then processed by computers into images. Both are essential components in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and trauma.
Why do I have to drink so much water for my pelvic ultrasound?
Ultrasound is just that-sound waves. If you've ever been swimming in the lake, you've probably noticed that when you go underwater, you can hear motorboats buzzing around from miles away. That is because water is a great conductor of sound waves, and by filling the bladder with fluids, it allows the ultrasound waves to travel easily through the pelvis, making it easier for the technologist to visualize various regions of interest during your exam.
What is a Nuclear Study?
Nuclear Studies are types of imaging exams that use radioactive isotopes (microscopic particles) that are administered into your bloodstream, similar to when you get an IV. These isotopes are in liquid form, and depending on the type of isotope used, will collect in different parts of your body to allow the technologist to scan that body part with a sophisticated camera. The images collected can then be reviewed by your doctors to help diagnose a wide variety of illnesses.
Why does the X-Ray Tech leave the room and hide behind a wall when my test is being done?
X-Rays are a form of ionizing radiation, meaning they are very powerful waves of energy that have the ability to affect matter on an atomic level. In other words, they can alter cells in your body, even DNA. Exposure to this type of radiation for medical exams typically is very safe, but prolonged exposure can be dangerous. Technologist must protect themselves from this exposure, as they work in and around this radiation every day of their career. An analogy would be sunbathing. A patient having a typical x-ray, you could say, would be similar to sunbathing for 1 minute. For the technologist, if they didn't use safety precautions, would be similar to lying in the sun all day with no sunscreen. OUCH!!!
Why can't the technologist who performed my study give me the results?
The interpretation of studies falls outside the scope of practice of the technologist, and into that of a physician who is trained in that field of study. A technologist is bound by their professions 'Code of Ethics', to not give interpretations, no matter how obvious, unless otherwise instructed to by the attending physician. Results are not considered official unless viewed by a physician.
Is my bathroom really radioactive after my Nuclear Study?
Technically, yes, but for a brief period of time only, and at extremely low levels. The radioactive isotopes used for Nuclear Studies are absorbed in the bloodstream and are eventually excreted in the urine. The isotopes break down (decay) very quickly, and after a few hours are non-detectable. Several thorough cleanings of the toilet and sink are recommended the day of your exam, particularly if there is a pregnant person in the home, with paper towels being thrown away afterwards. After that, no worries!
If I'm claustrophobic, how can I get my MRI done?
A lot of it depends on the type of scanner being used. Typically, the opening (bore) of the scanner was very narrow, as well as deep, and made it difficult for even those without claustrophobia to remain inside for extended periods of time. Items such as mirrors and headphones have been used in the past to help relieve the tension, and sedation is an option with some as well. But the biggest breakthrough for these patients is the advent of the large bore, super high speed magnets, like the one Piedmont Health Group will introduce this spring at The Diagnostic and Imaging Center. It provides the largest bore, fastest time, and quietest experience of any MRI being produced. You could literally nap through the study, but it's so fast, you may not have time!
Will a pacemaker interfere with my study?
That really depends on the study. For basic x-ray exams, ultrasound, and nuclear studies, it will have practically no effect. For CT (Cat Scans),it can create streaky images called 'artifacts' if it lies within the area being studied. These artifacts can obscure pathology and make it difficult to get a good reading on the study. It would be similar to taking a picture of the sun and getting that star-burst effect on your photograph. If you have been scheduled for an MRI and have not made the medical staff aware that you have a pacemaker, it is imperative you contact your physician BEFORE the exam, as this can cause a life threatening situation.
Why can I not have an MRI if I have a pacemaker?
There are 3 main reasons someone with a pacemaker cannot have an MRI. Pacemakers are essentially a battery pack with 1-2 wires linked to the battery and terminating in the lining of the heart. These battery packs are 'programmed' specifically for your heart by using magnets to tell it when to beat. An MRI's magnetic field is so powerful (1.5 times that of the earth's own magnetic field), it can literally reset the battery in your pacemaker, change the position of the wires within your heart, or send electrical impulses through those wires which can lead to arrhythmia, or worse. Please inform the medical staff prior to scheduling if you have a pacemaker.
If I'm allergic to IV Contrast, can I still have my CT (Cat Scan) done?
Yes, depending on the severity of your reactions in the past. Sometimes studies can be done without contrast, but if it is necessary for the outcome of the procedure, patients can be pre-medicated with antihistamines and steroids leading up to the exam. These medications can greatly reduce the risk associated with severe (anaphylactic) reactions and allow the study to be performed with less risk.