Medical scans, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, have become more common and are no longer as intimidating as they used to be. However, they can still cause anxiety and concern for patients who are unsure about what to expect from the procedure. Demystifying medical scans will help ease your fears and prepare you for your scan.
What is a medical scan?
Medical scans use technology to create internal images of different parts of the body. During a scan, you lie on a table and move through a machine that captures images of your body. Scans can be used to diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders.
Types of Medical Scans
Different types of scans are used to capture images of specific parts of the body. Here are the most common types of medical scans:
X-rays – X-rays are the oldest form of medical imaging, and they use low doses of radiation to create an image of bones and other structures in the body.
Computed Tomography (CT) scans – CT scans use X-rays to create detailed images of internal organs, bones, and tissues.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – MRI scans use radio waves and magnets to create images of internal organs, bones, and tissues.
Ultrasound – Ultrasound scans use sound waves to create images of organs, tissues, and blood vessels.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) – PET scans use a radioactive tracer to create images of the function of organs and tissues.
Preparing for a Medical Scan
Preparing for a medical scan can vary depending on the type of scan you are having, and the medical condition being assessed. Here are general guidelines for preparation:
Talk to your doctor – Before the scan, talk to your doctor about any allergies or medical conditions, including pregnancy, that may affect the scan or the contrast material given during the scan.
Follow instructions – Follow the specific instructions your healthcare provider gives you, which may include fasting or drinking liquids before the scan.
Comfortable clothing – Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing without metal objects, such as zippers, buttons or snaps.
Remove jewelry – Before the scan, remember to remove all jewelry and metal objects.
Bring a friend – If possible, bring a friend or family member to the scan to provide comfort and support.
During the Scan
During the medical scan, you may be asked to lie on a flatbed or a table in a specific position. Your technician will provide you with instructions on how to maintain your position during the scan. The procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or longer, depending on the type of scan and the area being scanned.
It is important to remain still during the scan to get clear images; however, you can communicate with your technician via intercom or through a button, if you feel uncomfortable or anxious. You can also ask for a break if you need one, though it is best to avoid this as it may prolong the scan, and potentially cause problems with the quality of the image.
After the Scan
After the procedure, it is common to feel a sense of relief, and while the scan itself does not cause any pain, depending on the type of scan you undergo, you may experience discomfort or minor side effects.
Recovery time varies between scans, but you can expect to receive directions from your healthcare provider, and you can ask any questions or concerns you may have. For some types of scans, you may immediately resume normal activities, while some may require rest or special instructions to follow.
Medical scans can seem scary, but with the right preparation, they can be quick, painless, and easy. It is important to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have with your healthcare provider, to help clarify the process and to ready yourself for the procedure. Remember, medical scans are an essential tool for diagnosis and treatment, and the information they provide can help you start and continue on the path to good health.