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How Should I Prepare for a Medical Imaging Examination?

Visit the Types of Exams Menu to link to specific information on what happens during Angiography, Computed Tomography, Magnetic Resonance, Mammography, Nuclear Medicine, Ultrasound and X-ray Imaging.

In general, you should prepare for your diagnostic imaging examination by becoming as well educated as possible about the procedure you will undergo. Immediately prior to your examination, the imaging center staff or physicians (called radiologists) may take some time to specifically explain to you what will happen in preparation for the procedure and during the imaging test itself. You can contribute a great deal to the quality and success of your imaging study by learning about the process and cooperating as best as you can.

Depending on the type of imaging exam you will have, your preparation prior to the imaging exam will be different. For instance, you may need to prepare for the examination up to 24 hours in advance by fasting or observing some special diet, or you may be instructed to simply eat and behave normally.

In general, education about your upcoming imaging exam could include learning about:

  • specific type of imaging tests that will be run
  • what the test will determine or diagnose
  • what preparation is necessary
  • whether you will need to receive a pharmaceutical contrast solution (liquid)
  • approximate duration of exam
  • basic instructions to follow during the exam (for example, "relax and lie very still")
  • the benefits and potential risks of the specific imaging exam

Some questions you may be asked before having certain diagnostic imaging tests might include:

  • "are you pregnant?"
  • "are you allergic to iodine or shellfish like shrimp?"
  • "have you had any brain, eye or ear surgery?"
  • "have you ever had a heart surgery?"
  • "have you ever had joint surgery or replacement?"
  • "do you wear permanent eyeliner?"
  • "have you ever worked with metal?"
  • "do you have any metal objects implanted in your body?"
  • "do you have a pacemaker?"

Please discuss any of the above issues with your physician or imaging center staff before your diagnostic examination, especially if the answer in your case is "yes" to any of the questions. In general, don't be afraid to ask questions.

Updated: August 2010