Computerized axial tomography (known as "CAT scan" or more simply as "CT") utilizes radiation to produce images of the body. CT is ordered by physicians for a wide variety of reasons. CT is less expensive than MRI and and is able to serve the needs of more patients since those with pacemakers are not restricted from undergoing CT examination. CT exams typically last several seconds while an MRI exam usually take 30-45 minutes or more. For some situations, CT is much preferred over MRI while the opposite is true in others. Sometimes when patients go for CT exam of the abdomen and/or pelvis, they have to drink oral contrast (a "dye"). Intravenous contrast (a different "dye" injected into a vein) is also commonly administered depending on the patient and the situation.
Interventional radiology is a subspecialty of radiology that utilizes imaging equipment (x-ray/fluoroscopy, ultrasound, or CT primarily) to minimally invasive procedures. This includes performing biopsies of different body parts and organs. In addition, this subspecialty includes imaging and treatment of arterial and venous diseases. Dialysis catheter placement is a procedure commonly performed by interventional radiologists. Other catheters and forms of venous access are also placed by Interventional Radiologists. There are a number of other less commonly performed procedures that fit within this specialty as well.
Mammography uses low-dose x-rays to produce images of the breast tissue and glands. The main use of mammography is for purposes of detecting breast cancer. Earlier detection by screening mammography increases early detection for breast cancer, allows for early treatment and routine follow ups and save lives. Annual mammography is recommended by most medical organizations for women starting at the age of 40 years.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of imaging which relies on principles of magnetization to produce an image. It is excellent for distinguishing different types of body tissue. In particular, it is commonly used for imaging the brain, spine, and joints.
Nuclear medicine is an area of radiology which utilizes radioactive chemical agents to produce an image. A number of different radioactive agents are available and each has its own uses in disease detection. The agent(s) may be provided to the patient in the injected form or by mouth depending on the situation. Nuclear medicine has its own special equipment to capture radiation and produce images. Commonly performed exams in a nuclear medicine department include those which assess blood flow in the heart (myocardial perfusion scintigraphy) and detecting of some types of cancer (PET-CT and other types of testing.)
A radiation oncologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer patients, using radiation therapy as the main modality of treatment. Radiation oncologists at Midwest Radiological Associates often work closely with you medical oncologist to determine the best course of treatment. These treatments can include brachytherpy, intensity modulated radiation therapy and other methods of treatment.
Ultrasound imaging (also called sonography) produces images by utilizing high frequency sound waves. Ultrasound imaging can display a number of organs and body parts. It is especially used in the adult population to image the gallbladder, kidneys, thyroid gland, veins and arteries. Obstetrics and gynecologic imaging are a primary use of ultrasound. Ultrasound has a number of uses as well. A special quality of ultrasound imaging is that no radiation is involved.
X-Ray examinations are commonly done to assess the lungs, abdomen, and bones. While x-ray imaging is an excellent first test in the patient's work-up, it often is not the only test utilized. X-ray provides a quick, relatively low-radiation, and inexpensive assessment. It is limited in what is known as "contrast resolution." What this means it that differentiation of different body tissues is limited. For example, separating muscles from tendons and ligaments is generally not possible in normal patients. Also, assessing the liver, pancreas, brain and other organs is extremely limited. For these and other organs, ultrasound, CT, and MRI are utilized depending on the body part and disease process that is being tested.