The first step in addressing a medical problem—whether it’s a blocked artery, a tumor, or broken bone—is to find its precise location within the body, accurately measure it, and provide a “roadmap” that guides physicians during treatment. The staff of Bridgeport Hospital’s Radiology department, including physician-radiologists and radiology technologists, uses all the available state-of-the-art technology for this purpose.
Bone Density Scan – Bone density scans are produced with X-rays or CT technology, measure bone content, mass and strength. This testing procedure is primarily used to diagnose osteoporosis, a disease in which there is loss of bone mass and destruction of bone tissue, and thus a greater risk of fracture, particularly among older patients.
CT or CATScans (Computerized Axial Tomography) – CAT scans use X-rays and computers to produce images of the soft tissue within the body, including the brain. These images are used to look for signs of disease or trauma in the body.
Fluoroscopy – A digital fluoroscopy shows body systems as they move, including the skeletal, digestive, urinary, respiratory, and reproductive systems.
Mammography – A mammogram is an X-ray image of the breast, used to check for tumors or other abnormalities. Mammography may also be performed on healthy, normal breasts to provide a baseline reference for later comparison.
MRI – An MRI, or magnetic resonance image, produces very clear images of the body without X-rays. Instead, MRI uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce these images.
Nuclear Medicine – Like PET scanning, this procedure assesses bodily function. It has similar applications, but is more widely used in functional assessment of bone, thyroid, gastrointestinal, cardiac, renal (kidney), and other systems, and is very helpful in detecting infections. Nuclear medicine is commonly used during stress tests for coronary artery disease. A radioactive material is injected into the patient’s vein so that an image of the heart becomes visible with a special camera. Nuclear images are taken while the patient is at rest, and again immediately following exercise. The two sets of images are then compared. During exercise, if a blockage in a coronary artery causes decreased blood flow to part of the cardiac muscle, this region of the heart will appear as a relative “cold spot” on the nuclear scan.
PET Scan – A PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) is a highly specialized imaging technique that produces three-dimensional colored images to provide information about the body's chemistry. Unlike CAT or MRI scans, which look at anatomy, or body form, PET studies metabolic activity, or body function. In most cases, a PET scan begins with an injection of a tracer substance into a vein in the patient’s arm. The tracer material gathers in cancer cells or other abnormalities in the body, highlighting them on the images produced by the PET scan. PET has been used primarily in oncology. In addition, it has been used in cardiology and neurolgy to assess the benefit of coronary artery bypass surgery, identify causes of childhood seizures and adult dementia, and provide early diagnosis of cardiac and neurological conditions.
Ultrasound – This is a test used to diagnose a wide range of diseases. High-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, are transmitted through body tissues. The echoes are recorded and translated into video or photographic images that are displayed on a monitor for diagnosis. Many patients are familiar with ultrasound imaging of the fetus, heart, and gallbladder. Blood vessels are well visualized and blockages and aneurysms are well seen using ultrasound.
X-ray – This is the “granddaddy” of imaging tools. First used in the late 1800s, X-rays continue to play a prominent role in medical diagnosis. An X-ray is a high-energy beam used in low doses to diagnose a variety of conditions ranging from broken bones to abnormal tissue growth such as tumors. X-rays are also used in high doses to treat tumors. (See Radiation Medicine)