Erie VA Medical Center
In general, “radiology” refers to medical imaging techniques, employing advanced computers and other complex equipment that allow doctors to see inside a patient’s body. Although the word “Radiology” implies radiation, not all of the techniques involve radiation. Ultrasound is an example.
Most of the actual imaging is carried out by certified technologists. The images of the inside of your body that the technologist generates are digital images that are viewed on a computer monitor. The images are then analyzed by specially trained doctors called “Radiologists.”
We have included general information for many of the Radiology exams and procedures done at our facility. We describe what you can expect and how to prepare for each exam.
IMPORTANT: Many Radiology exams and procedures require preparation. When scheduled for a Radiology exam, always ask your clinic for preparation instructions.
If you have any questions about the instructions, contact the Radiology Department: 814–860–2506.
X-rays represent the original field from which radiology developed and are probably still the most commonly used form of radiology. X-rays are frequently used to complement other kinds of radiology.
What to expect when you have an x-ray:
- Sometimes jewelry or certain clothing items can interfere with or show up on an x-ray. When you are called for your exam the technologist will instruct you as to whether any of these items will have to be removed or if you will need to change into a gown.
- When you are ready to have the x-ray, the technologist will position you so that the area of your body being imaged is properly placed in the x-ray field. They will then leave the room and activate the x-ray. Depending on the type of x-ray you are having, you may be asked to hold your breath to prevent the image from blurring.
- You may need to wait while the x-ray technologist reviews the images to make sure they are accurate and of good quality. Occasionally, another x-ray may have to be taken if the first one does not show the area properly. IMPORTANT: If you are pregnant, or if you think you MIGHT be pregnant, tell the technologist.
How to prepare:
In General, no preparation is required for simple x-rays.
Fluoroscopy is a continuous x-ray for real-time imaging that allows a physician to study the movements of internal organs and the passage of contrast materials through those organs.
What to expect when you have fluoroscopic imaging:
- Sometimes jewelry or certain clothing items can interfere with or show up on the images. When you are called for your exam the technologist will instruct you as to whether any of these items will have to be removed or if you will need to change into a gown.
- For GI studies, you will usually need to drink barium, or have a barium enema. The barium coats the linings of the organs being examined. It provides the contrast needed to better visualize these organs and detect any abnormalities or obstructions.
- You will then lie on a table or stand depending on the area being imaged. The camera will be moved to a position above or in front of you in order to get the proper angle for the images. You may be asked to turn or reposition several times during the exam. The entire process can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.
IMPORTANT: If you are pregnant, or if you think you MIGHT be pregnant, inform the technologist.
How to prepare:
- Barium Enema: Your provider will prescribe for you a bowel cleansing preparation kit. This will either be mailed to you or you will be asked to pick it up at the VA pharmacy. Follow the instructions included in the kit. Preparation typically begins 24 hours prior to your exam. If you have not received the preparation kit, please inform your clinic at least 48 hours prior to your exam so one can be provided to you.
- Upper GI and/or Esophogram/Barium Swallow: DO NOT eat or drink anything after midnight or for at least 8 hours prior to the exam. DO NOT take any medications the morning of your exam.
Ultrasound uses a transducer (ultrasound probe) which generates high-frequency sound waves to create images of blood vessels, tissues and organs. The principle is very similar to the sonar by which dolphins, bats, and submarines navigate. No radiation is involved. A probe is placed on the area being examined and slowly moved from one area to another. The transducer receives sound waves bouncing back from the body and projects the image onto the monitor.
What to expect when you have an Ultrasound:
Ultrasound examinations are done while you lie on a table in a slightly darkened room so the technologist can better see the computer monitor. Depending on the area to be scanned, you may need to put on a gown, or loosen your clothing to allow the technologist to access the appropriate area.
The technologist applies a water based gel and slowly moves a smooth probe over the area. You may experience slight discomfort due to the position of the probe. The entire process should take around 30 minutes.
How to prepare:
- Ultrasound – Aorta: DO NOT eat or drink anything after midnight or for at least 8 hours prior to the exam.
- Ultrasound - Gall Bladder: DO NOT eat or drink anything after midnight or for at least 8 hours prior to the exam.
- Ultrasound - Liver: DO NOT eat or drink anything after midnight or for at least 8 hours prior to the exam.
- Ultrasound - Pancreas: DO NOT eat or drink anything after midnight or for at least 8 hours prior to the exam.
- Ultrasound - Renal/Bladder: Drink four 8oz. glasses of liquid one hour prior to appointment. DO NOT empty bladder. Bladder must be full for exam.
- Ultrasound - Bladder: Drink four 8oz. glasses of liquid one hour prior to appointment. DO NOT empty bladder. Bladder must be full for exam.
- Ultrasound – Carotid, Extremity, Thyroid, or Scrotum: No Preparation is required.
Computerized tomography (CT scan) combines a series of x-ray views taken from many different angles and computer processing to create detailed images of the bones and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images can provide much more information than do plain x-rays and can be used to image nearly all parts of the body.
What to expect when you have a CT scan:
- In many cases, CT scans require a dye to be used. We call this dye contrast. You may need to have either oral or intravenous contrast or both.
- If your exam requires oral contrast, you will be given contrast to drink when you arrive in the department. (You may have also been given contrast material to drink the night before your exam.)
- If your exam requires intravenous contrast, an IV will be started in a vein in your arm and the contrast will be injected during the exam. Lab work is required to be done prior to the administration of IV contrast to evaluate kidney function.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you tell the technologist if you are allergic to injected contrast.
If you are a diabetic and taking METFORMIN, inform the technologist. Metformin must be suspended for 48 hours following the injection of contrast.
Because the CT scan uses x-rays, it is also very important that you tell the technologist if you are pregnant - or even if you think you might be pregnant.
Sometimes jewelry or certain clothing items can interfere with or show up on the images. When you are called for your exam the technologist will instruct you as to whether any of these items will have to be removed or if you will need to change into a gown.
In most instances, you will be placed on the table that slides into the center of the doughnut-shaped CT scanner. Make sure you are comfortable before the scan begins because you cannot move once the scan starts. While the scans are taking place you may be asked to hold your breath to prevent the images from blurring with the movement of your chest and abdomen.
The entire exam can take from10 minutes to an hour or more depending on the area being examined.
How to prepare:
Most CT scans require some preparation. You should be instructed by your clinic of the preparation required for your specific exam. If you are unsure of the preparation required for your CT scan, contact the Radiology Department at: 814–860–2506
The bone densitometer uses small amounts of x-ray to produce images of the spine, hip, or even the whole body. The x-ray is composed of two energy levels which are absorbed differently by the bones in the body. The technical term for the method is “dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry”, or DEXA. A computer is able to determine from these differences how much bone mineral is present. The spine and hip are measured because that is where osteoporotic fractures occur most.
What to expect when you have the test
Bone density tests can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. All methods of testing are noninvasive and safe. There is no pre-exam preparation needed, and you usually do not even have to change into a gown. You will simply relax, breathe normally, and let the machine scan the selected area. The technologist will instruct you when the scan is complete.
How to prepare:
No Preparation is required.
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