Imaging - What Is It?

I have been referred for some “Imaging”- what does this mean?

Some imaging (scans or x-rays) may be done on the same day and ready to look at straight away, and some need to be booked and time for the consultant radiologist (x-ray specialist) to look at (called reporting).

Types of imaging you may have:

CT scan

This is a type of X-ray where you lie in a tunnel (quite a wide one) while x-rays are shone through you and record a picture of what is going on in an area of your body. You may need an injection (contrast) to make the scan more effective and provide more information. You may need a blood test to ensure that your kidneys are working well enough to have contrast. This will have been done before the day or your scan if it is needed.

MRI scan

An MRI scan uses a big magnet which forms a tunnel around you when you are having the scan. This is why you will be asked if you have metal clips, plates or pieces in your body before you have the scan. A metallic or electronic implant will have problems in the magnetic field and the X-Ray doctors need to know about any the you have before you go in the room.

Plain X Ray

A simple x-ray can sometimes be done on the same day as the clinic appointment and may provide some of the information to the doctor treating or investigating you. The doctor will be able to see the pictures of the scan on the computer.

Ultrasound scan

An ultrasound scan involves some jelly being put on your neck and a probe slid along the skin. It is similar to the scan pregnant women have on their bellies to look at the baby. Sometimes this scan is combined with a needle biopsy to allow the doctors to get very accurate samples of the lump or bump that is causing problems

PET CT scan

A PET CT scan is a specialist CT scan with an injection of radioactive sugar. The team arranging the scan will contact you about any special care you need to take after this injection, but generally you are not at risk to yourself and others due to this low level of radiation. The special sugar injection shows up cells that are active either with disease or inflammation and can help the doctors focus on whether you need further investigations such as a biopsy.