FAQ

We have compiled a list of common questions that you mind find helpful. If you have additional questions please feel free to call us at 888-322-7785

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How long does an MRI take?

MRI of the Brain - 20-45 minutes
MRI of the Orbits - 20-35 minutes
MRI of the TMJ - 45-60 minutes
MRI of the Soft Tissue Neck - 25-35 minutes
MRI of the Cervical Spine - 20-35 minutes
MRI of the Upper Extremity - 20-45 minutes
MRI of the Thoracic Spine - 25-45 minutes
MRI of the Chest - 25-45 minutes
MRI of the Abdomen - 25-45 minutes
MRI MRCP - 50-60 minutes
MRI of the Lumbar Spine - 20-35 minutes
MRI of the Pelvis - 20-35 minutes
MRI of the Lower Extremity - 20-35 minutes
MRI Run Off - 50-60 minutes
MRI Arthrogram - 30-60 minutes

How does an MRI machine work?

An MRI machine creates a magnetic field which is used to align the hydrogen nuclei within your body. Considering your body is made mostly of water (H2O), there is plenty of hydrogen atoms to work with. These hydrogen atoms typically spin in random directions, but when placed inside a magnetic field, they will line up in the direction of the magnetic field. An MRI then sends radio waves through your body, and then measures the response with a computer. This creates a series of digital slices/image or picture of the inside of your body that is clearer than can be obtained with XRAY or CAT SCAN.

For a full, detailed explanation of the precise workings of an MRI machine, this is a great reference:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/mri.htm

What are the risks of an MRI

There are no known risks to humans being exposed to magnetic fields currently being used in medical imaging. The strong magnetic field used in an MRI is not harmful in anyway, however medical devices or metal implants may malfunction or be a hazard during your MRI. Your technologist who performs the MRI scan will ensure to screen you properly for a safe and pleasurable experience.

What is MRI contrast and what are the risks?

MRI contrast is used to improve the quality of the scan being performed. It is administered through a vein in your arm prior to the procedure. The contrast helps provide vital details about your blood vessels, tissue, and organs. That being said there are some rare risks involved.

- Allergic reactions
- Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis

What preparations should I make before an MRI?

Here are a few things that will save you time and make things easier for your procedure:
-Leave all valuables and jewelry at home
-Dress in clothing that does not contain any sort of metal. This includes zippers, buttons, hooks, clasps, underwires, etc
-During the MRI procedure, you will be asked to remain as still as possible. For some, stimulants such as coffee can make this task harder; if possible, try to avoid such stimulants prior to your exam. Using the restroom prior to your exam is also recommended.

How do X-RAYs Work?

How Do X-Rays Work?

Medical X-rays have been a crucial diagnostic tool since 1895, when they were discovered by German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen. X-ray images, or radiographs, allow doctors to look inside the human body to discover possible anomalies.

Put simply, a medical X-ray machine consists of two components: the X-ray generator and an X-ray detector. During an X-ray, patients are positioned between these two devices.

When the machine is activated, it beams X-rays through the patient's body to strike the detector plate. Along the way, different tissues absorb different amounts of X-rays, allowing the detector to register contrast between bones, tissues, and organs.

The resulting image shows a "shadow" portrait of the inside of the human body. The calcium in bones absorbs more of the X-ray than other tissues, creating a high-contrast white outline of the skeleton on a radiograph.

This makes X-rays a valuable diagnostic tool for detecting bone fractures and irregularities, although doctors also use X-rays to discover abnormal growths, tumors, lung problems, the presence of foreign objects, dental disorders, and other conditions.

To learn more about X-rays and how they function in a medical section, visit the national institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering’s site.

Are X-Rays Safe?

X-rays emit concentrated ionizing radiation, which can be harmful with increased exposure. However, it's important to note that the risks of a doctor-ordered X-ray are vanishingly small compared to those of skipping an important diagnostic procedure.

The FDA warns that repeated exposure to medical X-rays can create "a small increase in the chance of developing cancer later in life." That risk can increase with the accumulation of X-ray exposure throughout life, and women face a slightly higher risk of radiation-related cancers over time.

Very high doses of radiation can also cause burns and/or cataracts in rare cases. Still, the FDA writes that "the benefits of medical X-rays far outweigh their risks." The FDA suggests several steps consumers can take to reduce their lifetime risk of X-ray-related radiation exposure:

Communicate with the health care provider who orders an X-ray. Ask if there's another procedure that could achieve the same result with less exposure to radiation.

If you're pregnant, or think you might be, tell your technologist before beginning an X-ray procedure. Generally, X-rays are safe for pregnant women, but your health care team may consider other options if you need diagnostic images of your abdomen.

Ask your technologist if you can use a lead apron or other protective clothing. Depending on the type of X-ray you receive, you may be able to block radiation to certain types of the body. If you're not given the option, you can always ask your technologist.

Keep a detailed record of the X-rays you receive. A lifetime list of your X-ray history can help doctors prevent unnecessary procedures. Just make sure to note the date, type of X-ray, the name and address of the imaging facility, and the name of the physician who referred you. This information will allow future health care providers to easily track down your records.

How do ultrasounds work?

General ultrasound imaging is a safe, painless way for radiologists to view the inside of the body in real time. During an ultrasound, the technician slowly moves a wand called a transducer against the patient's skin.

The transducer emits sounds that are so high-pitched the human ear can't register them. These high-frequency sound waves bounce off of organs and blood vessels, back into the transducer. By measuring the time, direction, and pitch change of the echo, the computer converts those sound waves into accurate, real-time images.

Ultrasound imaging is completely noninvasive, and it doesn't use ionizing radiation. A variation of the technology, Doppler ultrasonography, can even show blood as it flows through arteries, veins, and organs. Another variation, the echocardiogram, uses ultrasonography to create images of the heart.

What are ultrasound scans used for?

Many patients first encounter ultrasound imaging during pregnancy. Doctors use ultrasounds to view developing fetuses, ensuring that the pregnancy is healthy. Because ultrasounds don't emit ionizing radiation, they are safe to use even on unborn infants.

Ultrasonography has many uses beyond pregnancy, however. Doctors may order an ultrasound to help diagnose mysterious pain or swelling. They might use the modality to get an interior look at a site of infection. Doctors also use ultrasounds for imaging internal organs for a range of diagnoses.

Ultrasound images may also help guide surgeons during certain procedures, such as biopsies. Thanks to Doppler ultrasonography view of blood flow, cardiologists often use this type of imaging to look for narrow vessels, blood clots, and congenital heart conditions.

What is ultrasound gel, and why do they use it?

In most cases, technologists spread a sticky gel on the skin at the examination site. This water-based, hypoallergenic gel keeps a steady, secure connection between the transducer and the body.

This is important because high-frequency sound waves don't travel well through empty air. Dry skin may create tiny pockets of air between the transducer and the skin, obscuring the image. Ultrasound gel eliminates these air pockets to create the clearest possible image.

Are there any safety risks involved in an ultrasound?

Not typically. The Radiological Society of North America does not list any hazards associated with standard ultrasounds used for medical diagnostics. Ultrasonography is one of the safest imaging modalities available.

Are nonmedical ultrasounds, as in the case of fetal keepsake videos, safe?

This is the notable exception to the general safety of ultrasound imaging. The FDA and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine both condemn the use of ultrasound for entertainment, as in the case of fetal keepsake videos. While there's no evidence that ultrasound scans are harmful to fetuses, there's a chance that long-term exposure to ultrasonic pitches can cause as-yet-undiscovered problems.

Additionally, doctors worry that nonmedical ultrasounds can create a false sense of security among expectant mothers. Only certified health care professionals can accurately interpret ultrasound images.

Essentially, the FDA and the AIUM take a "better safe than sorry" approach to the subject of nonmedical ultrasounds. They only recommend ultrasound scans when ordered by a physician for a distinct medical purpose.

What is a CT scan?

Computed tomography (CT) scans take X-rays from multiple angles simultaneously. Then powerful computer software combines these images into two-dimensional "slices," or cross-sectional images. (That's the "computed" part.)

By stacking these "slices" together, CT machines can even create highly accurate 3D portraits of the body. CT scans generally provide clearer images of all types of bodily tissues compared to standard X-rays.

Doctors often order CT scans when they need to study the torso, which these unique imaging machines can reveal within minutes. CT scans of the head are also quite common, as they can help to diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries, strokes, and brain tumors. The images captured by CT scans of the head offer more clarity than a simple X-ray of the skull.

What's the difference between a CT scan and a CAT scan?

You might hear your health care provider talking about a CAT scan when your doctor orders a CT scan. Don't panic! Both terms describe the exact same procedure. Medical professionals once called this X-ray procedure a CAT scan, which stands for for "computed axial tomography." Over the years, "computed tomography" took over as the most common usage, hence "CT scan."

In the early 1970s, when CT scans were first developed, doctors called them EMI scans. A company called EMI built the first CT machines, and for a long time, they were synonymous with the procedure. The terminology has moved on, and these days, most people in the medical field stick to "CT scan."

How safe are CT scans?

You might have heard how X-rays expose patients to ionizing radiation. Because CT scans involve a quick series of X-rays, they also carry this risk. Note, however, that the actual health risk of exposure to X-rays is very low, and doctors only order these procedures when the benefits outweigh the risks.

The risk of developing serious radiation-related side effects, such as cancer, are extremely low for X-rays and CT scans alike. That said, radiation exposure adds up over the years. Doctors typically only order CT scans that are medically necessary, so patients should never skip them.

If you're concerned about radiation, talk to your doctor about alternative imaging modalities. Your medical team may be able to get the information they need with procedures that don't expose patients to any radiation, such as MRI scans.

How long does it take to get a CT scan?

The answer depends on several factors. Different parts of the body may require different durations for a complete scan. If your doctor orders the use of a contrast agent for your scan, the procedure will take a bit longer.

Simple CT scans are quite quick. Newer machines can complete most scans within just a few minutes — and sometimes even less than that. As a general rule, plan to spend less than an hour preparing for and receiving a CT scan. Ask your radiologist for more details about your specific medical imaging session.