CT scans are an x-ray based diagnostic test. CT scans allow the referring doctor and radiologist to review the body as you might look at a loaf of bread, in thin slices. The patient's scan can be reviewed in different orientations, looking at slices from the front or side of the body making it extremely accurate.
Any area of the human body can be assessed by a CT scan including brain, heart, neck, spine, chest, abdomen, pelvis and sinuses. CT scans can easily visualise bones, arteries and veins, fully access the bowels and organs of the body. This is a very versatile scanning technique with very few risks.
MRI scanning has been in use since the early 1980s and has no known side-effects. MRI uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce images of the body. It has become the investigative method of choice for many neurological and musculoskeletal conditions and is used in all areas of the body. It helps identify problems in soft tissue in particular – nerves, muscles, ligaments and tendons. For example, MRI scanning is widely used to investigate the brain, heart, bones, joints, breasts and other organs such as lungs and the liver.
X-rays are good for showing very hard and dense tissue, and they are therefore very useful for diagnosing bone-related problems.
For example, x-rays can be used to help identify fractures and assess bony joints, wear and tear, thinning and weakening of the bones, bone infection, abnormal curvatures of the spine and bone tumors.
Fluoroscopy enables radiologists and surgeons to view motion in real time and assess the anatomy and function of different parts of the body. Fluoroscopy is frequently used to evaluate the gastrointestinal tract, including the oesophagus, stomach, the first section of the small intestine called the 'duodenum,' and the colon. The fluoroscopy procedures that are commonly used to evaluate the gastrointestinal tract include barium swallow (upper GI tract), barium meal (upper GI tract, stomach and duodenum)) and barium enema (bowel assessment). These tests assist physicians in diagnosing problems of the digestive tract e.g. ulcers, tumors, hiatal hernias, reflux, scarring, inflammation and blockages. Fluoroscopy is also used to provide diagnosis and therapy for patients with acute and chronic back pain symptoms like sciatica e.g. nerve root blocks, sacroilac joint injections and to evaluate the kidney function in angiography and venography procedures (placement of tubes in an artery or vein) and some imaging guided biopsies.
The latest advance in breast cancer management has been the introduction of 3D Tomosynthesis technology (similar to a CT scan of the breast) which provides exceptionally sharp images of the breast and also enables traditional 2D images to be produced from the same 3D scan. This subsequently reduces the need to recall patients for additional x-rays in alternate positions and reduces the need for unnecessary biopsies as images as more accurate.
Ultrasound is a test that utilises sound waves to produce diagnostic images. It is extremely safe and is often the first-line investigation. It is widely used in obstetrics, cardiology, assessing blood vessels, abdominal structures such as liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, prostate, testicles, uterus, and ovaries. It is also used for the examination of glands in the neck and some knee conditions.