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Why Would I Need to Have Diagnostic Imaging?

There are thousands of illnesses and injuries where diagnostic imaging is indicated as a part of the diagnostic and therapeutic process. A huge number of books written for doctors and/or ordinary people are in print and cover the list of these illnesses and injuries. The purpose here is to give a brief overview of some of the common uses of diagnostic imaging and some of the more complex reasons and to detail other sources of information tailored to lay people or specialist physicians.

An increasing number of Americans receive at least one diagnostic imaging examination in their lifetime:

  • every woman over the age of 40 is recommended to have an annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer
  • a large percentage of pregnant women and their fetal babies are being imaged with pre-natal ultrasound to check the health and formation of the baby
  • many pediatric emergencies (such as when a child falls off of a bicycle) require an x-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan upon visiting the emergency room (ER)
  • severe trauma (e.g. automobile accidents) almost always involves an x-ray or CT scan as part of the diagnosis
  • many acute care hospitals take a mandatory chest x-ray of each patient upon admission
  • many sports medicine injuries require magnetic resonance (MR) imaging as part of the diagnosis and treatment
  • an increasing number of elderly Americans receive some sort of cardiac screening involving diagnostic imaging: ultrasound, nuclear medicine/stress thallium, cardiogram, electron beam CT (EBCT)
  • New drug treatments for menopausal osteoporosis often involve getting a special x-ray or CT to check bone mineral density (BMD)
  • most forms of early stroke detection and treatment involve CT (CAT) or MR (MRI) scanning
  • dental x-rays to verify teeth development and check for cavities are routinely administered by dentists or orthodontists

Updated: September 13, 2007