Watson Imaging Center in St Louis and St Joseph Missouri

Preparing for Your Radiology Exam

CT Scans

Preparing for a CT Exam

  • Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing.  Preferably elastic waistband verses zippers and snaps.  You may be asked to change into a medical gown.
  • For most CT’s you will be asked not to eat or drink anything, except water, four hours prior to the exam.  Our office will contact you the day before your scheduled exam with complete instructions.
  • You may take all medications with water except for medications for diabetes.
  • Please bring a list of your current medications along with your surgical history and any medical conditions.
  • If there is any chance that you may be pregnant please inform our office prior to your exam.

The Exam

  • A registered technologist will explain the exam in detail and will answer any questions or concerns you may have.
  • The technologist will position you on the CT table per exam protocol.
  • Depending on the type of examination, you may be injected with contrast or “dye”.   If you have a known allergy to contrast, please let your doctor know when the test is ordered.  He may give you medication prior to the exam to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.
  • Through the entire procedure the technologist will be able to visualize you through glass from the CT control room and communicate with you by intercom.
  • The table will move through the CT scanner capturing the images ordered by your doctor.  You will be instructed by the tech throughout the procedure.
  • When the exam is complete the technologist will review the scan with the radiologist to confirm that the exam is complete and no other images are needed.
  • Once the exam is complete and the images have been verified by the radiologist, you will be able to return to your normal activities.  However, if contrast was administered intravenously, you may be given special instructions before leaving our facility.

Information about Intravenous and Oral Contrast Used in CT
For many computed tomography examinations patients may be asked to take a special contrast agent (either orally or via injection). Intravenous and oral CT contrast are pharmaceutical agents (liquids) and are sometimes referred to as “dye”. CT contrast is used to make specific organs, blood vessels and/or tissue types “stand out” with more image contrast to better show the presence of disease or injury. Thus CT contrast highlights specific areas of the resultant CT image or “dyes” it.

Note: It is important that patients consult the staff member performing their CT exam for specific instructions to follow when contrast will be used. The information contained herein is only a general guideline.

There are two types of contrast agents used at SJIC:

  1. The type that is given via intravenous (through a vein) injection
  2. The type that is given orally

CT Contrast Given Via Intravenous Injection
Intravenous contrast is used in CT to help highlight blood vessels and to enhance the tissue structure of various organs such as the brain, spine, liver and kidneys. “Intravenous” means that the contrast is injected into a vein using a small needle. Some imaging exams of the abdomen and gastrointestinal system use both the intravenous iodine and orally administered barium contrast for maximum sensitivity.

The intravenous CT contrast is clear like water and has a similar consistency. It is typically packaged in pre-filled plastic syringe and a power injector is used to administer the contrast. Typically between 75 cc to 100 cc (about 2.5 oz. to 3.5 oz) of contrast is used depending upon the patient’s age, weight, and kidney function.

What Preparation is Needed Before Receiving Intravenous Contrast?
Sometimes it is necessary to not eat or drink anything for several hours prior to the exam. When injecting patients over the age of 40 and/or diabetic patients, a simple blood test to check kidney function is required prior to inject the IV contrast. This blood test must be ordered by your physician.

Oral CT Contrast
Note: It is important that patients consult the staff member performing their CT exam for specific instructions to follow when contrast will be used. The information contained herein is only a general guideline.

Oral contrast is often used to enhance CT images of the abdomen and pelvis. There are two different types of substances used for oral CT contrast. The first, barium sulfate, is the most common oral contrast agent used in CT. The second type of contrast agent is sometimes used as a substitute for barium and is called Gastrografin.

Barium contrast looks like and has a similar consistency as a milk shake. It is mixed with water and depending on the brand used, may have different flavors (for example, strawberry or lemon). Gastrografin contrast is a water-based drink mixed with iodine and has a tinted yellow color. When given orally, gastrografin may taste bitter.

Patients usually need to drink at least 1000 to 1500 cc (about three to four 12 oz. drinks) to sufficiently fill the stomach and intestines with oral contrast.

What Preparation is Needed Before Taking Oral CT Contrast?
It is important to eliminate as much food as possible from the stomach and intestines in order to help the sensitivity of the CT exam using oral contrast. Food and food remains can mimic disease when the oral contrast is present. Thus a regimen of not eating and/or drinking for several hours before the CT exam is required. The preparation time varies depending on the actual exam. Some types of oral CT contrast are taken at home well before the CT examination.

Ultrasound

Preparing for an Ultrasound

Preparations will vary depending on the type of Ultrasound ordered by your physician.  Our office will contact you the day before your scheduled exam with complete instructions.  Below is a list of preparations on the most common types of exams:

  • Pelvic Ultrasound – You will need a full bladder for this exam, therefore you need to drink 32 to 40 ounces of water one hour prior to your exam.  You can not urinate once you start this process of filling your bladder. Though uncomfortable, we must scan you while your bladder is full for optimum views of the pelvic organs.
  • Gallbladder (Biliary) – Nothing to eat or drink 8 hours prior to the exam.
  • Renal (Kidney) – Do no urinate one hour prior to your exam.
  • Abdominal Complete – Nothing to eat or drink 8 hours prior to the exam.
  • Carotid, Thyroid, Breast, Scrotum, Venous – No preparation.

NOTE:  You can take all medications with a small amount of water.

The Exam

  • Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing.  Preferably elastic waistband verses zippers and snaps. You will be asked to change into a medical gown.
  • A registered sonographer (ultrasound tech) will explain the exam in detail and answer any questions or concerns.
  • The sonographer will position you onto the examination table based on the exam protocol.  Most ultrasound exams are done with the patient positioned lying on their back.
  • Clear ultrasound gel will be applied to the area that is being examined.  The sonographer will then scan the area with a transducer, applying pressure to optimize the scan.
  • When the exam is complete the sonographer will review the scan with the radiologist to confirm that the exam is complete and no other images are needed.
  • Once the images are reviewed and approved, you will be able to return to your normal activities.
Bone Density

Preparing for a Bone Density Exam

  • Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing.  Preferably elastic waistband verses zippers and snaps.
  • You can eat normally and take your medications.
  • If you take calcium supplements, stop taking them 4 days (96 hours) prior to the exam.

The Exam

  • A registered technologist will explain the exam in detail and will answer any questions or concerns you may have.
  • The technologist will position you onto the examination table based on the exam protocol.
  • The exam will last approximately 10-15 minutes.  It is fast and painless.
Digital Mammograms

Preparing for a Digital Mammogram

  • Do not wear deodorant.  Do not apply perfume, lotion or powder to your breast or underarm area.  We will have deodorant available for you after your exam.
  • You can eat normally and take your medications.
  • You will be asked to remove everything from the waist up.  You will be given a medical cape to be worn during the exam.

The Exam

  • A female registered technologist will explain the exam in detail and will answer any questions or concerns you may have.
  • The technologist will position your breast on the x-ray detector plate.  The technologist will then compress your breast firmly against the detector.  The test may be uncomfortable but your breast must be compressed to get as much breast tissue as possible.
  • The exam will last approximately 10-15 minutes.
X-Rays

Preparing for X-rays

  • X-rays are walk-in only.  No appointment necessary.
  • You may be asked to remove jewelry or wear a gown depending on the type of x-ray.
  • The length of an X-ray exam varies depending on the type of X-ray needed.
MRI

Preparing for MRI
MRI exams are only offered at Watson Imaging’s St. Joseph, Missouri location.

  • If your clothes have any metal fasteners or metallic design, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown. A locker will be supplied to secure your belongings.
  • Your screening form will be reviewed by the technologist in consultation with the radiologist if indicated. If MRI contrast is indicated for the exam, an IV catheter will be inserted in your arm by a nurse or technologist.

Because of the strong magnetic field used during the exam, certain conditions may prevent you from having a MR procedure. When scheduling your appointment and prior to your exam, please alert our staff and technologist to the following conditions that may apply to you. The radiology staff will let then let you know whether you can have the MRI exam and whether the exam needs to be modified for your particular condition.

  • Pacemaker
  • Pregnancy
  • Claustrophobia
  • History of kidney problems
  • Skin tattoos
  • Neurostimulators (TENS-unit)
  • Implanted drug infusion device (i.e., insulin pump)
  • Exposure of metal fragments to your eye
  • Artificial heart valves
  • Aneurysm clips
  • Cochlear implants
  • Metallic implants and prosthesis
  • Vascular stent or stent graft
  • History as a metal worker
  • Shrapnel or bullet wounds
  • Dorsal column stimulators
  • Allergy to iodine, or gadolinium

Getting ready for your exam at Watson Imaging is very important to ensuring the fastest and most comfortable experience.

Just click on any of the exam types to the right for more information about how to prepare before your exam and what you can expect:

preparing-for-radiologist

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