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Common medical diagnostic tests like the MRI scan are what enable doctors and specialists to do their job. So what exactly do we use them for? And why do we use some scans for some things, and other scans for other things? This guide should help you understand the method behind how we use common medical diagnostic tests. Read on if you’d like to know more!
What are the most common medical diagnostic tests?
Let’s start by looking at what the most common medical diagnostic tests actually are. Probably the most well known is the X-ray scan, which uses a kind of radiation to see what’s going on inside your body. X-ray scanning is the most common kind of medical diagnostic scan, and is used in hospitals and clinics around the world to diagnose patients with all sorts of conditions. The CT scan is a form of x-ray scan, which is used to generate images in three dimensions; regular x-rays appear on a flat plane.
Another common medical diagnostic test which most of us will go through at some point in our lives is the ultrasound scan. If you or your partner are pregnant, there’ll be a point where you take a trip to a clinic or hospital to have an ultrasound scan, and see your unborn baby for the first time. That’s why out of all the common medical scans, the ultrasound is one which most of us will probably be familiar with. Yet another common form of scan is the MRI scan, which uses electromagnetism and radio waves to create either two or three dimensional images.
What do we normally use these tests for?
Each of these kinds of scan is used for different things. So, what an MRI scan is good for is different to what an X-ray is good for. So, let’s start from the top:
- Because X-rays can see through soft tissue, but not through bone, they are normally used to look for broken bones and fractures. The X-rays leave outline images on photographic paper; so dense areas which let fewer rays through appear pale, whereas less dense areas appear black. That’s why bones show up as pale on an X-ray, and that’s why that’s what we use them for! That being said, there are two kinds of X-rays- hard and soft- which can be used to examine either bone or normal tissue. Even so, they’re normally used to examine bones.
- Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create images. As we said above, ultrasound scans are mostly used to create live images of your unborn baby. That’s because the radio waves are completely harmless, unlike X-rays, which could overwhelm an unborn baby. They’re also useful because we could perform an ultrasound scan for as long as we like, whereas we can only perform brief X-ray scans because of the danger of radiation.
- MRI scans are a great choice for examining changes in soft tissue. MRI scans work by creating a highly detailed image of the physical structure of your tissue. The image is so detailed that any changes to your tissue- like a tumor, for example- are obvious. And since MRI scans are harmless, they’re perfect for using on sensitive tissue like the brain.
But not only are different tests good for different uses, there are different reasons for using them too.
Clinicians can use each of these tests to diagnose conditions and problems. Take an X-ray scan for example. It’s the quickest and easiest way for us to gain a comprehensive medical understanding of what happened to a fractured or broken bone. We can use MRI scanning technology to search for clots, aneurysms and tumors before they become so serious as to be life threatening. So, if you approach a doctor or a doctor refers you to a clinician, we can use tests like these to diagnose what’s wrong with you.
We also use these tests for screening. Whereas a doctor might refer a patient to an MRI clinic because they suspect that they have a brain tumor, and what that to be confirmed, screening tests are performed as routine on individuals who are simply known to be at risk for certain conditions. Screening somebody for cancer because of a family history with the disease is an excellent example. The point of screening tests is to find problems while they’re only in the early stages of development. In doing so, we give the patient the best possible chance of recovery. This is especially important with regards to conditions like brain tumors, which are deadly serious.
Last, but not least. We also use these tests to monitor patients with certain conditions. The most common conditions we use monitoring tests for are, again, brain tumors and the like. As you can probably guess, we use monitoring tests to monitor your response to treatment. So, if chemotherapy is part of your treatment for a brain tumor, we would use monitoring tests to examine how your tumor is responding. We can tell you whether it’s shrinking or growing. So these tests aren’t just our best tool for diagnosing you. They’re also our best tool for keeping track of your condition.
Do you have any more questions?
If there’s anything you’re still unsure about: why not contact us? Our friendly staff are on hand to help you. If there’s anything that you don’t know about the process of going through an MRI, we can put your mind at ease. Just email, contact us through our website, or give us a call today.