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Common Imaging Terms

Here are some commonly-used terms to help you learn about diagnostic imaging procedures.

Mammography/Mammogram - A type of X-ray using a low dose of X-ray and high-contrast, high-resolution film that is used to detect breast cancer.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) - Provides high-contrast images of soft tissue. It is used to image the brain, the spine, injured joints, blood vessels and organs in the abdomen and pelvis.

X-rays - There are two main types of X-rays. A radiographic X-ray is when a still image is made of a bone or organ. A fluoroscopic x-ray is when a moving image of an organ is viewed on a TV screen or computer monitor.

CT or CAT scan (computed tomography) - Combines the use of a computer with an X-ray to create cross-sectional images of bone, soft tissue and organs.

Ultrasound - Relatively inexpensive and radiation-free, this method is used to monitor fetal development, as well as to evaluate kidneys, liver, pancreas and blood vessels in the neck and abdomen.

Nuclear Medicine - Shows the anatomy and function of organs and enables faster diagnosis of some diseases and medical conditions.

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) - PET imaging facilitates the accurate, non-invasive detection and staging of cancer, as well as heart disease and neurological disorders. The PET scanner detects photons given off by a patient and constructs a three-dimensional image of glucose metabolism in the body. Whole-body PET images can be displayed in three image planes, helping pinpoint normal and abnormal processes

Imaging Guided Biopsy - Under fluoroscopic, CT or ultrasound guidance, our radiologists place small needles in areas of abnormality, and take samples for cytologic or pathologic testing. With imaging guidance, biopsies of an abnormality can be obtained while important adjacent structures, such as blood vessels or bowel, may be avoided.

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) - is a localized treatment that kills the target tissue with heat, while sparing non-targeted tissue. Because of the localized nature of this treatment, patients report that RFA causes very little discomfort after the procedure and most people can resume their usual activities in a few days. Radiofrequency ablation can also be done in conjunction with chemotherapy so the tumor can be treated locally with RFA while the patient continues to be treated systemically with chemotherapy.