Radiology is a very dynamic and far reaching part of modern medical practice. Even experienced surgeons and primary care physicians at times have questions about what exam to order and what is involved. If you are patient, things can be even more confusing. Explore some of our most commonly asked questions and find links to sources of further explanation.

Here are our most frequently asked questions:

1. Are x-rays harmful?

Conventional x-ray exams, CT scans, mammograms, and nuclear medicine studies all involve the use of radiation. Small amounts of radiation exposure are typically not considered harmful; however, large amounts of exposure can damage the body and potentially result in malignancy later in life. In general, it is recommended that patients only be exposed to x-ray radiation when the benefits of the exposure outweigh the risks. Pregnant women and children are especially sensitive to radiation exposure and special steps need to be taken to limit exposure when examining this group.

Also, how frequently you are exposed to x-ray radiation makes a difference. So having multiple CT scans over a short period of time potentially exposes a patient to more risk than if the scans were spread out over a longer period of time.

Remember, however, not diagnosing a serious medical problem by not having a scan can be a much greater risk to your health then a small amount of radiation exposure.

2. What are the risks of an MRI exam?

During an MRI exam the patient is exposed to a very strong magnetic field. If the patient has certain types of metal in their body, this metal could potentially move and cause harm. Typically, this would not occur with metal that was placed in the patient during a prior surgery. However, if a patient otherwise has metal in their body, especially in their eye, they may not be able to undergo an MRI exam.

Also, patients with pacemakers cannot undergo an MRI exam. Other types of implanted electronic devices are evaluated on a patient by patient basis in regards to their MRI safety.

Otherwise, MRI exams are considered to be safe and are now even being done on pregnant patients.

3. Why do some CT and MRI exams require an IV contrast injection?

IV injections of contrast are at times required for CT and MRI exams. The contrast allows better visualization of vessels and body organs which results in a more accurate study. A small percentage of patients receiving IV contrast for CT exams have a mild allergic reaction that can cause hives and sneezing. Rarely, IV contrast can cause a severe allergic reaction causing breathing difficulties and requiring medication. Very, very rarely intravenous contrast injection can result in cardiovascular collapse requiring emergency treatment.

Prior to any contrast injection you will be asked questions by the technologists regarding your history and if you have experienced any prior allergic reaction.

4. When and how do I get my medical imaging study results?

When you have a medical imaging examination the study is reviewed by a radiologist who dictates a formal report on the findings. These reports are generated within 30 minutes if the examination is an emergency or within 24 hours if the exam is routine. Your medical imaging exam report is then immediately available for review by the ordering physician. Patients can also review their reports online through "My Chart" at SwedishAmerican Hospital after a few days.

Most often the patient receives their results through the physician who ordered the examination. However, we do encourage every patient to ask for and personally review the report or check it online.

5. I had a medical imaging exam and an abnormality was found, can someone show this to me?

All examination images are readily available for review by your physician over their office computer system and hospital network. At your return visit, you can ask your physician if they will show you the images. However, many physicians are not specifically trained for reviewing these images and may not be comfortable discussing them in detail.

If you have an abnormal study and would like to discuss the findings and see the abnormality for yourself, you can call 779-696-1795 to arrange an exam review discussion with one of our radiologists.

6. Where can i find out more about my rights as a patient?

As a patient, you have a say in who provides your health care and where you receive it. A core element of the ACR's mission is to maximize the quality and safety of patient care by providing resources to help you make informed decisions. Find out more information here.