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A Look Inside Diagnostic Imaging

By Kathy Hubbard

It was one of those, “If only I had a nickel every time I said …” moment. Because once again I was telling someone that it didn’t matter if their doctor was in Spokane or Spain, they could have their diagnostic imaging done right here in Sandpoint.
What? Yes. Bonner General Health has the capabilities to do just about all the tests that your physician may order, but the doc may not know that, so you’ll need to speak up. You know that in this digital age it’s not necessary to drive an hour or more for tests that can be electronically seen anywhere in the world.
A physicist named Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen is credited with discovering x-rays in 1895. He was fussing around with electric currents and cathode rays and making them fluorescent (if you want scientific details you’ll have to look it up) but his experiments resulted in an x-ray of his wife’s hand. Diagnostic imaging was born. Funny, I always thought it had something to do with Superman’s x-ray vision.
“The most familiar use of x-rays is checking for broken bones, but x-rays are also used in other ways. For example, chest x-rays can spot pneumonia and mammograms use x-rays to look for breast cancer,” Medlineplus explains.
“X-rays are a type of radiation called electromagnetic waves. The images show the parts of your body in different shades of black and white. This is because different tissues absorb different amounts of radiation. Calcium in bones absorbs x-rays the most, so bones look white. Fat and other soft tissues absorb less, and look gray. Air absorbs the least, so lungs look black.”
If something suspicious appears on an x-ray but the clinicians can’t figure out what it is, they may order a CAT (computed axial tomography) scan, aka CT (computed tomography) scan. They could be looking for broken bones, cancers, blood clots, signs of heart disease or internal bleeding.
“The cross sectional images generated during a CT scan can be reformatted in multiple planes, and can even generate three-dimensional images which can be viewed on a computer monitor, printed on film or transferred to electronic media,” explains Radiologyinfo.org.
“CT scanning is often the best method for detecting many different cancers since the images allow your doctor to confirm the presence of a tumor and determine its size and location. CT is fast, painless, noninvasive and accurate. In emergency cases, it can reveal internal injuries and bleeding quickly enough to help save lives.”
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a scan that utilizes a strong magnet, radio waves and a computer to generate detailed images of your body. Here’s where it gets a little confusing. Both a CT scan and an MRI produce images of your bones, organs, and other internal tissues. The differences include:
“An MRI uses a magnetic field to generate an image. An MRI scan takes longer to perform. An MRI provides a clearer picture of abnormal tissues. It is a better scan for looking at ligaments and tendons, your spinal cord and other soft tissues.” says FamilyDoctor.org.
Nuclear scans, also called radioisotope scans or radionuclide scans use radioactive substances to see the function inside your body. It can show how your organs are working, or not working as the case may be.
We’ve often talked about 3-D mammography also called breast tomosynthesis, so I won’t go into that again now, but will remind you that it can be done at BGH.
Next up is ultrasound which uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of organs and structures inside the body. And, yes, let you know what sex your baby is. And, using the same technology is the echocardiogram which uses ultrasound to take pictures of your heart.
Finally, fluoroscopy is best defined as an x-ray in motion. Fluoroscopy shows moving body parts. As a contrast dye moves through the body, a continuous x-ray beam is passed through the body part and sent to a video monitor.
So, the inside scoop for the day is that Bonner General Health can provide all these tests. You can make that call.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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