When Body Imaging Tests Are Needed
Imaging tests, which include X-rays, sonograms (ultrasound), nuclear medicine scans, CT (computerized tomography), and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), create pictures of internal body organs, tissues, structures, and pathways. Physicians will order such tests to help with the diagnosis of health conditions and the management of disease. They may also be used to assist during certain procedures and surgeries.
Starting with Abdominal Scans
Sonograms use high-frequency sound waves to create images of the shape and outline of various tissues and organs in the body. Abdominal X-rays provide basic information regarding the size, shape, and position of abdominal organs. Stones in the kidney, gallbladder, or ureters can also be seen with either sonograms or X-rays.
Upper or Lower GI Series or Barium Esophagram
An upper gastrointestinal (UGI) series looks at the upper and middle sections of the gastrointestinal tract (intestines). The test uses barium contrast material and X-ray fluoroscopy, which allows a “real-time” observation of what is occurring in this part of your digestive system.
Before the test, you drink a mix of barium (barium contrast material) and water. Your doctor watches the movement of the barium through your esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine on a video screen. Several X-ray pictures are taken at different times and from different views.
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. The MRI is a noninvasive procedure that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce clear, cross-sectional or three-dimensional images of the body’s tissues, even through bone and other obstructions. Lung, liver, pancreas, kidney, and spleen disorders may be seen with an MRI.
Nuclear Medicine Scans
Nuclear scans use radioactive substances and a special tool called a gamma camera to create images of organ systems in the body. A nuclear scan may be used to detect and diagnose digestive concerns such as diseases of the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas; gastrointestinal bleeding; or tumors.
Computed axial tomography, also known as a CT scan, is a noninvasive and painless test that uses a rotating X-ray device to create detailed cross-sectional images of organs, bones, and other body parts. The illustrations produced by a CAT scan look as if you have been neatly sliced into sections and placed on display. CAT scans can detect appendicitis, inflammatory disorders of the bowel (including colitis), and abdominal tumors.