Frequently Not-So-Common Questions About Medical Imaging

July 20, 2019 – 6 min read

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image of the back of two men, one in a blue blazer and one in a lab coat, looking at medical imaging prints

At Touchstone Imaging Centers, we perform thousands of medical imaging tests each day around the nation. Each day we are asked tens of thousands of questions by our patients before, during, or after their diagnostic test. For today’s post, we compiled some of the frequently asked questions that are not featured in most medical imaging frequently asked questions pages. Typically, when medical imaging sites create their FAQ pages, they address the big things, the questions that the majority of patients ask initially. These questions help to identify what the procedure is and how they can prepare for it. However, most patients, even after being walked through the medical information, have many remaining questions, some of which are pure curiosity and some are more personal. For the most part, these questions are not pertinent to the procedure, but if you’ve never had one before, you may not know that. We believe that just because a question is less relevant, that it is no less important, so join us as we answer your medical imaging questions.

At Touchstone Medical Imaging, our friendly technologists are more than willing to answer all of your questions. Whether you are getting a simple x-ray or a full-body MRI scan, your technologist is more than happy to answer any question that will make your experience more pleasant. When you need a diagnostic imaging scan, contact us to schedule your appointment.

Why Does My Bladder Have To Be Full During an Ultrasound?

A pelvic ultrasound is used to assess organs and structures in the pelvis including ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina, and an unborn child. An ultrasound uses sound waves that travel through the body and create images when the sound waves bounce off different structures to create an image. Having a full bladder creates a fluid reservoir that enhances the movement of sound through the abdomen. This helps to create a clearer image of the structures that need to be assessed.

Why does an MRI take so long?

This is a question we get quite frequently. People seem genuinely concerned about the length of time that the procedure takes, but there are a few things you should understand that may help. An MRI, depending on what area of the body is being scanned, takes anywhere between 15 minutes and 45 minutes to complete. As compared to many other medical procedures, this is relatively short. Just imagine how long it takes you to shower in the morning. Or how easy it is to sit still to watch an hour-long television program. We are convinced that the concern about the length of time the scan takes is more about the inability to be stimulated during the procedure. Most people find it boring to sit still for 30 minutes without interaction, movement, or direct stimulation, such as browsing the internet on your phone. But, we recommend that you take this time to silently reflect and collect your thoughts, perhaps even recharge your battery — both your mind and your electronic device!

How do I read the results of my medical imaging?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to. Once the images are taken by an experienced technologist, the images will be transferred to a radiologist who will interpret them and give their impression. Mind you, your radiologist has not seen or assessed you and has no other frame of reference, so their impression is based solely on the images in front of them. Once the radiologist’s impression is received by your physician, your provider will review all of the facts and develop a diagnosis and relay the results to you. You have access to all of your radiology images and medical documentation and are free to review the results, but context and background cannot be understated.

Can I leave my clothes on?

Many people ask this out of a desire to be comfortable and we couldn’t understand more! Getting a medical imaging test performed is not necessarily a reason to remove all of your clothing and don a hospital gown. However, for certain procedures, it may be better if the view is not obscured by clothing and some clothing may present a hazard during testing, like jeans or a bra with an underwire during an MRI. Generally, your technologist will ask you to remove only the clothing that is necessary and provide either a hospital gown, a sheet or blanket, or both, to offer you some privacy and comfort. So, generally, you may leave your clothing on and your technologist may review with you some clothes that would be optimal for wear, based on which medical imaging test you are having done.

Is that normal?

For procedures where patients can see their images right away, like ultrasound, many are concerned when they see different shapes or structures and will ask their technologist if it is normal. It is important to understand two things — 1. your technologist cannot interpret or give you results, so don’t be offended or assume that it isn’t normal if they don’t give you a straight answer, and 2. “normal” organs look as different on everyone as their facial features, so sometimes the answer is “yes, it looks normal for you.” When looking at results, we are not necessarily looking to make sure things look normal so much as we are looking for what is abnormal, if that makes sense.

Why do I have to drink this contrast?

Some MRI, CT scan, and even ultrasound may be prescribed as “with contrast.” Contrast dye helps your radiologist better view your digestive or circulatory system. Sometimes the dye is ingested and sometimes it is administered through an IV in your arm. The type will depend on your condition, medical history, and what is being attempted to rule out. The contrast essentially works as a highlighter on your organs and allows them to be seen better and can help show how they are working.

If this discussion didn’t help to completely answer all of your questions, don’t hesitate to contact us and get all the answers you need to feel comfortable during your procedure. If it is outside normal operating hours, you can visit us online and review our other helpful resources:

FAQ About Mammogram
Questions to Ask Your Medical Imaging Specialist

For all of your medical imaging needs, visit us online to find a Touchstone Imaging Center near you and contact us to schedule your appointment.