Some common forms of diagnostic tests are listed below.
An x-ray is an imaging exam that produces images of your bones and other internal organs in a fast, painless manner. X-rays are done to determine the existence of a wide range of conditions, including tooth decay, arthritis, bone cancer, lung cancer, and problems affecting the digestive tract. While x-rays expose patients to radiation, the amount is too small to pose any major risks; nevertheless, women that are or might be pregnant should inform their doctors beforehand to prevent potential harm to their unborn child.
Most x-rays require no special preparations beforehand. If a contrast medium is required, this is usually administered right before the x-ray, as a swallowable liquid, an injection, or an enema. X-rays are typically performed at any medical or dental practice, hospital, and emergency room; depending on the purpose of the x-ray, it can last anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour. The x-ray machine sends a miniscule amount of radiation through the body, although patients feel nothing. The images are viewed by a radiologist who compiles a detailed findings report. Depending on the situation, x-ray results can be available in as soon as a few minutes, or within a few days. Your doctor will discuss the results with you.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive, radiation-free scanning technology that uses radio waves and magnetic fields to produce clear and detailed three-dimensional images of nearly any organ or hard and soft tissues in the body. MRI can be used to identify or precisely locate an injury or abnormality, to scan for developing problems or analyze damage from previous trauma, and to aid in the planning of surgery.
MRI produces images of any area of the body and can be an invaluable tool for detecting tumors, infection, cancer and damage to the eye and inner ear, nervous system, heart and blood vessels, joint and musculoskeletal systems, major organs and male and female reproductive systems.
CT or CAT Scan
Computed tomography (CT), or CAT scan, is a sophisticated x-ray imaging system that scans thin “slices” of the body on all sides, then combines those slices into a highly detailed, three-dimensional digital image of hard and soft tissues in the body. The procedure is non-invasive, requires minimal radiation exposure and can simultaneously depict tissues of different densities, which is not possible with traditional x-ray methods.
CT scans are highly useful for detecting problems, examining injury, guiding biopsy needles and aiding in surgical preparation of almost all parts of the body. CT is able to detect tumors, cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, spine problems, arthritis, osteoporosis, problems in the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract, colon, rectum and injuries to the brain, heart, liver, spleen, appendix, or other internal organs.
Electromyography (EMG) is a diagnostic exam that evaluates the health of the muscles and the nerves that control them by measuring muscle electrical activity. This test is most commonly performed to determine the cause of muscle weakness and identify cases that are caused by neurologic disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, peripheral neuropathy and others, rather than primary muscle conditions.
A discogram is a diagnostic test performed to assess back pain and determine if spinal disc abnormalities are causing your symptoms. This test is performed by injecting a special dye into your spinal discs and using imaging technology to view the area in greater detail. Due to its invasive nature, a discogram is only considered for patients with persistent back pain that remains unresponsive to treatment. A discogram may also be performed on spinal fusion surgery patients to identify the damaged discs that need to be removed during surgery.
A bone scan is a diagnostic exam that evaluates the bones for new areas of growth or breakage. It may be used for the entire body or just a certain area, and can diagnose a specific problem or be part of a routine screening process. A bone scan can often detect abnormalities much earlier than a regular X-ray.
During a bone scan, a radioactive tracer substance is injected into a vein in the arm and helps show cell activity and function of the bones as it travels through them. A special camera can capture images of the tracer to help identify any abnormalities. The procedure takes about an hour and is generally painless.