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Health Education Blog

Types of Diagnostic Tests Done at an Imaging Department

Posted by Staff on November 30, 2016

doctor and radiographerSay you’re having some strange symptoms that you don’t know the cause, so you visit your doctor to seek help and get some answers. Or maybe you’re visiting for a routine checkup, but some health concerns come up unexpectedly. In either scenario, your doctor may want to evaluate the situation further and have some testing done to figure out what’s going on inside your body that may be causing such symptoms.

She may decide to order one or a series of diagnostic testing. She’s sent you off with a list of tests to be done, and you’re not really sure what all of it means. Even if you’re doctor has explained to you what tests will need to be performed, you may feel overwhelmed by all this new information. We’ve put together a list of radiology services offered at the Orchard Hospital Medical Imaging Department and common reasons these tests are performed.

Digital X-rays

There’s a few main reasons your doctor might use digital x-ray to get a look inside your body. He may request x-ray images to check the effect of a treatment method, monitor the progression of an existing disease, or simply to view an area you are experiencing pain.

Digital X-ray technology can provide a view of:

  • Arthritis
  • Blocked blood vessels
  • Bone cancer
  • Breast tumors
  • Conditions affecting the lungs
  • Digestive problems
  • Enlarged heart
  • Fractures
  • Infections
  • Osteoporosis
  • Swallowed items

General Ultrasound

Using high-frequency soundwaves, ultrasound scanning can provide images of inside the body safely and painlessly.

Usually pregnancy comes to mind first when we think of ultrasound, but there are many other reasons your doctor may order an ultrasound.

If you're having pain, swelling, or other symptoms that require an internal view of your abdominal and pelvic regions your doctor may want to use ultrasound to see what’s going on.

General ultrasound can provide an internal view of the:

  • Bladder
  • Gallbladder
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Ovaries
  • Pancreas
  • Spleen
  • Testicles
  • Uterus

Vascular Ultrasound

Like general ultrasound, vascular ultrasound is noninvasive and painless. Vascular ultrasound specifically provides pictures of your veins and arteries to help identify problems such as blockages or clots.

If you’ve been experiencing sudden weakness, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, or pressure or tightness in your chest, your doctor may want to check out your body’s circulatory system (blood flow through the organs and tissues) through vascular ultrasound.

Vascular ultrasound can help doctors identify:

  • Blockages
  • Blood clots in major veins
  • Enlarged artery
  • Severity of varicose veins
  • Success of procedures that graft or bypass blood vessels
  • Whether you are good candidate for a procedure

Cardiac Echo

If you’ve been complaining about symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or heart palpitations your doctor may suspect a bigger problem and request a cardiac echo. Cardiac echo (or echocardiogram) is sonogram technology used to capture images of your heart. Specifically, this test help doctors discover problems with the valves or chambers of your heart to get a better idea of what is going on.

Cardiac echo testing can reveal

  • Damage to the heart muscle
  • Heart defects
  • Heart size
  • Pumping strength
  • Valve problems

CT – CAT Scan

A CT scan uses rotating x-ray and computer processing technologies to create an even more accurate picture of what’s happening inside your body than a single x-ray alone.

By combining images of a specific part of your body—such as the head, bones, or joints—that have been taken at various angles, this technology can produce a 3-D image by combing images of slices and cross-sections of the body.

CAT scan images help doctors discover

  • Infections and muscle disorders
  • Bone fractures
  • Location of masses, tumors, and cancer
  • Internal injuries and bleeding

Vascular CTA

Vascular CTA (computerized tomographic angiography) combines x-ray and computer technology to provide 3-D and cross sectional images of blood vessels inside the body, much like the CT scan.

What makes this test different from the CT scan is that it adds the angiography methodology, which is the use of contrast dye injected into the blood vessels.

Your doctor may request this test to get a more accurate picture of what may be going on inside your blood vessels based on any number of symptoms you could be experiencing.

CTA may be required to diagnose certain conditions such as


Using radio waves and magnetic fields, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) evaluates the relative water content in tissues of the body and detects abnormal tissues and irregularities in the body.

MRI is used commonly and there may be many reasons your doctor wants to have an MRI done. It’s commonly used to get images of the internal organs such as kidneys, liver, ovaries, prostate, and uterus, as well as the brain and spinal cord, heart and blood vessels, and bones and joints.

MRI can help doctors identify

  • Tumors
  • Some heart conditions
  • Enlarged or blocked blood vessels
  • Abnormalities in the liver, gallbladder, and bile and pancreatic ducts
  • The cause of pelvic pain, such as endometriosis, fibroids, or adenomyosis
  • Abnormalities affecting the uterus
  • Breast cancer

Vascular MRA

MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) is a type of MRI scan using radio wave and magnetic field energy to take pictures of blood vessels inside the body.

The main difference is that vascular MRA is used specifically to see blood vessels, veins, and arteries.

If you’ve been experiencing chest pain or have had a heart attack or stroke, your doctor will want to use vascular MRA to pinpoint exactly which blood vessels are damaged. There could be other conditions or diseases that would require MRA testing as well.

MRA can help doctors find and pinpoint:

  • Blood vessels that may be causing reduced blood flow
  • Bulges (aneurysm), clots, or buildup of fat and calcium deposits in blood vessels leading to the brain
  • Aneurysm or tear in the aorta
  • Narrowing of blood vessels to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or legs

Dexa Bone Density

Dexa bone density (DEXA) scanning utilizes x-ray technology to measure bone loss and bone mineral density. Your doctor may require a bone density test if you’ve had a major injury, symptoms of bone loss, or you have risk factor for bone loss.

He may also recommend you have a bone scan if you are a woman 65 or older or a man 70 and older.

DEXA scanning can help doctors determine the severity of bone loss and bone strength in people with risk factors for bone loss, including people who:

  • Have a broken bone
  • Have osteoporosis (usually a broken bone is the first sign)
  • Have rheumatoid arthritis
  • Have low body weight
  • Smoke or drink heavily
  • Have taken steroid drugs, like cortisone, for at least three months
  • Have low vitamin D levels


Digital Mammography

Your doctor may order digital mammography, which uses x-ray technology to capture images of the inside of the breast, for screening in the earliest stages of breast cancer -- possibly before you even experience any symptoms of cancer.

This testing may also be used to identify and diagnose breast cancer in women who are already experiencing symptoms, such as pain, a lump, skin dimpling, or nipple discharge.

Digital mammography can help doctors detect irregularities and abnormalities in the breast, and help see changes that may have happened over time.

Digital mammography can detect:

  • Microcalcifications
  • Macrocalcifications
  • A mass (also called lumps or tumors)
  • Cysts – fluid filled or partially solid
  • Breast density, which is linked to higher risk of breast cancer

Breast Ultrasound

Using high-frequency soundwaves, breast ultrasound provides images of inside the breast safely and painlessly, and helps identify abnormalities inside the breast, such as lumps and cysts.

Your doctor may request a breast ultrasound if during a physical she spotted a lump or unusual nipple discharge or blood. An ultrasound of the breast may be used as a supplemental test along with mammography and/or breast MRI.

Breast ultrasound can help determine abnormalities such as:

  • solid non-cancerous lumps of tissues
  • solid cancerous tumors
  • fluid filled cysts
  • both fluid and solid masses

Our mission at Orchard Hospital is to provide quality patient care by utilizing cutting edge imaging technology to support your physician in achieving an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Orchard’s board certified radiologist and technologist, together with state-of-the art equipment, delivers the best medical imaging services available in Northern California. Your physicians have access to a full array of diagnostic imaging services, including digital X-Ray, CT and MRI scanning, ultrasounds, mammography, Dexa bone density screening, cardiac echoes, and CTA/MRA angiography.

Our Radiologic technologists are licensed by the California Department of Public Health, Bureau of Radiology. Our imaging staff has over 100 years of combined medical imaging experience.

Orchard Hospital Imaging Department is here for all your imaging needs.

Topics: Services

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