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The Top 5 Most Difficult Questions Patients Ask


No matter how friendly the staff or pleasant the surroundings, imaging centers can be scary places for patients. It is, after all, where cancers are diagnosed — but also where patients find that not all lumps and bumps are life-ending. But until the results of the radiology report are known, it is all too easy for the fear of the unknown to prevail and overwhelm people. Not a day goes by that a technologist isn’t asked at least one of these five questions by a nervous patient: 

What did you see on my X-ray?
It’s a tempting question since patients presume the technologists performing the exam “should know what the doctor is looking for.” However, without the practiced expertise of a radiology physician to interpret your exam, it would be highly irresponsible — and illegal — for your technologist to answer or offer an opinion. After the radiologist has evaluated your exam and prepared a diagnosis, your physician is sent a Radiology report of the findings. Then your physician will call you or schedule an office visit to review the results of your imaging test(s). It is also an opportunity for him or her to discuss labs or other exams that were ordered.

When will my doctor receive the report?
The sooner your physician receives the radiology report, the more quickly your physician will be able to treat you. Radiologists are usually able to dictate a diagnostic report within 24-hours, or sooner. However, that being said, do not call or visit your physician’s office to inquire about the results of your imaging exam. He or she needs at least 3 to 5 working days to evaluate your report, receive the findings of other diagnostic tests (i.e., labs) or order additional imaging before calling or visiting with you.

What’s my doctor looking for?
Perhaps your doctor orders a chest X-ray due to your persistent cough. The cause could stem from exposure to household irritants, flu, whooping cough, chronic bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia or a number of other reasons.  Or more seriously, lung cancer, chest irregularities, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, etc.  That’s why the exam order form states the reason for the exam and may include other pertinent health history details, diagnoses, or symptoms. If further assessment is needed, an advanced imaging study may be ordered to gather more extensive information.

Why can’t I eat or drink anything?
Some X-ray, CT, MRI, PET, nuclear medicine or ultrasound studies require that you not eat or drink anything  prior to your exam. Your exam may require contrast materials (or “dye”) to improve the visibility of specific organs, blood vessels or tissues. It may also be used to visualize spinal disks or its fluid spaces. In all, it greatly enhances the diagnostic accuracy of diseases, injuries, and conditions. Contrast materials may be swallowed, administered rectally, or injected into a blood vessel. Following an imaging exam with contrast material, the material is absorbed by the body or naturally eliminated from it.

What will happen if I have an X-ray and I am pregnant?
Medical imaging exams are generally safe during pregnancy. However, we have a responsibility to explain that with any dose of radiation, no matter how small, the exam may still carry some risk of harm. The risk is increased especially during the first trimester or when a large number of exams are performed. If you’ve had an X-ray after conception but before you discovered you were pregnant, you should not be overly concerned. X-rays that do not include the pelvis is much lower than the quantity of radiation the baby will naturally receive in its every day environment. 

If you believe you may be pregnant, inform your technologist and appropriate radiation protection will be taken. Ultimately, the radiologist will determine whether or not to proceed with a limited procedure or if the exam should be avoided altogether. We may contact your ordering physician to learn more about your medical history. Sometimes another imaging method can be recommended if necessary. If your doctor determines that an imaging exam is necessary for your future course of medical care, it’s important to remember that your health is essential to the health of your baby.

For information about Genesis Imaging Centers, contact KD Flick, physician liaison, at 563-421-5632, Davenport, Iowa.

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