STAT and Routine — Understanding Timelines For Medical Imaging

June 1, 2019 – 3 min read

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image of an ultrasound machine

When you have been prescribed anything by your provider, regardless of the setting or what the prescription is for, one of the demographics is the order processing time. Based on the perceived urgency of the information that the prescription is needed, it will be identified as STAT, priority, or routine. In today’s post, we will review what these terms mean in regards to your medical imaging procedure and how this may vary from the inpatient to the outpatient setting.

At Touchstone Imaging Centers, our medical imaging procedures are completed as quickly as possible, while taking into consideration the time requests listed in the provider’s prescription. Most of our diagnostic imaging centers offer walk-in and same-day services, and we have several locations inside larger medical facilities. Our high-quality medical images are interpreted quickly, by expert radiologists, to help your treatment team devise the best care plan.


STAT is the term to describe the most urgent of orders. This special designation is meant to be used in case of an emergency where the results of a test or procedure may mean the difference between life and death. The use of “STAT” in an order means that it should be pushed to the top of the queue and every other pending imaging should be pushed back. This designation is reserved for life-threatening conditions and will be performed immediately. Examples of a STAT imaging procedure include a head CT to evaluate for a stroke, chest x-ray to evaluate ET tube placement, reasons for respiratory distress, or presence of a pneumothorax. Portable radiology STAT imaging includes anything to respond to a code. Granted, this is not a complete list, your ordering physician will make the final determination.

The takeaway with STAT orders is that they are reserved for life-threatening emergencies and will not be used to get results quicker for convenience or to meet a deadline. At Touchstone Imaging, our imaging specialists make every effort to schedule every appointment as quickly as possible and to complete each imaging test as efficiently as possible to reduce the number or retakes and generate the best interpretations to keep the line moving, so to speak. We realize that just because it is not a medical emergency does not mean it is not important or that the results don’t matter.


Routine orders are exactly what it sounds like — routine. These are the procedures where there is no rush and you can get them done when you and the medical imaging center you choose to use has time. Common examples of routine medical imaging are the follow-up to ongoing conditions — broken bones, disease progression/ regression — and identifying new issues that cause minor concern — increase in headache or stomach ache.

At Touchstone Imaging, we believe that every patient is a priority, even when they are not first in line for imaging. We make every effort to get every diagnostic medical imaging procedure completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. When you schedule your appointment at one of our locations, our staff will get you in as soon as possible, often the same day or as a walk-in! Or, our staff can help you schedule a routine appointment for whenever suits you. Whether you prefer same day or you need to schedule regular follow-ups six-months out. When you choose to use Touchstone for your medical imaging needs, you get a team of radiology experts ready to capture high-quality images for you and your medical team. Visit us online to find a location near you and contact us to schedule your appointment today!