Traditional X-Rays, CT Scan, MRI
Diagnostic imaging techniques are often used to provide a clear view of bones, organs, muscles, tendons, nerves and cartilage inside the body, enabling physicians to make an accurate diagnosis and determine the best options for treatment. The most common of these include: traditional and digital X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Traditional X-Rays—X-rays (radiographs) are one of the most widely used diagnostic imaging techniques. An X-ray is often taken first and can help determine if you need additional, sophisticated testing to provide more detailed images. During an X-ray, the injured part of your body will be positioned between the X-ray machine and photographic film as electromagnetic waves (radiation) is sent briefly through the body, exposing the film to reflect your internal structure. X-rays are painless and may take as little as 10 minutes, depending on whether multiple X-rays from different angles are needed. This small level of radiation exposure is not harmful to you, but be sure to tell your physician if you are pregnant so special precautions can be taken to protect your unborn baby.
- CT Scans—By combining computer technology with X-rays, computed tomography (CT) produces a more detailed, cross-sectional image of your body. During a CT scan, you lie motionless on a table as it slides into the center of the cylinder-like scanner as an X-ray tube rotates around you, taking multiple images from all directions. A computer combines these images to produce a clear, two-dimensional view on a monitor. Compared to an X-ray, a CT scan requires more time and cost. As with an X-ray, be sure to tell your physician if you are pregnant so special precautions can be taken.
- MRIs—Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) produces cross-sectional images of your body, but unlike CT scans, it does not use radiation. During an MRI, you lie motionless on a table that slides into the tube-shaped MRI scanner. As a magnetic field is generated around you, radio waves are pulsed to the areas of the body to be viewed. The radio waves cause your tissues to resonate, and a computer records the rate at which your body's various parts give off these vibrations, translating the data into a detailed, high-resolution, two-dimensional picture. Because of the strong magnetic field, be sure to tell your doctor if you have any implants, metal clips or other metal objects in your body before you undergo the MRI scan. Although painless, an MRI can seem noisy and may take as long as 30 to 90 minutes.