CT Scanning of the Body
CT imaging is one of the fastest and most accurate tools for examining the chest, abdomen and pelvis because it provides detailed, cross-sectional views of all types of tissue.
It is also performed on patients with acute symptoms such as chest or abdominal pain or difficulty breathing. Most often it is the best method for detecting many different cancers, such as lymphoma and cancers of the lung, liver, kidney, ovary and pancreas since the image allows a physician to confirm the presence of a tumor, measure its size, identify its precise location and determine the extent of its involvement with other nearby tissue.
CT is commonly used to assess for pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lung vessels) as well as for aortic aneurysms. invaluable in diagnosing and treating spinal problems and injuries to the hands, feet and other skeletal structures because it can clearly show even very small bones as well as surrounding tissues such as muscle and blood vessels.
What is a PET scan?
(PET) is a nuclear medicine imaging technique which produces a three-dimensional image or map of functional processes in the body.
The test involves injecting a very small dose of a radioactive chemical, called a radiotracer, into the vein of your arm. The tracer travels through the body and is absorbed by the organs and tissues being studied. Frequently a PET scan is performed in conjunction with a CT scan. A physician can then look at cross-sectional images of the body organ from any angle in order to detect any functional and or structural problems.
How is a PET scan different from a CT or MRI scan?
One of the main differences between PET scans and other imaging tests such as CT or MRI is that a PET scan reveals the cellular level metabolic changes occurring in an organ or tissue. This is important and unique because disease processes often begin with functional changes at the cellular level.
A PET scan can often detect these very early changes whereas a CT or MRI detect changes a little later as the disease begins to cause changes in the structure of organs or tissues.
How should I prepare for a PET scan?
A PET scan is usually done on an outpatient basis. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your scan, including what you may or may not eat or drink before your exam.
Before undergoing the scan, be sure to tell your doctor of any medications—prescription and over-the-counter—that you are taking as well as any herbal medications and vitamins. If you are taking certain medications or have certain diseases, such as diabetes, you will be given specific instructions regarding preparation for your scan. Generally, most patients are told not to eat anything for a minimum of 6 hours before the scan. Heart patients are also told to not take any product with caffeine for at least 24 hours. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes to your appointment. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown during the test. In those patients that need an assessment of the area near the bladder, a bladder catheter may need to be inserted.
It is essential to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant before undergoing a PET scan because of radiation exposure.
How long does the test take?
Once injected into a vein, it typically takes from 45 minutes to 1 hour for the radiotracer to travel throughout the body and be absorbed into the organs or tissues to be examined. The scan itself may take another 30 to 60 minutes.
The heart and brain studies take less time for imaging. You will be asked to remain still for the entire length of the exam, since motion will reduce the quality of the images. Depending on which organ is being examined, there may be additional tests and additional dyes or chemicals used that may lengthen the total appointment time up to 3 to 4 hours.
For example, patients being examined for heart disease may undergo a stress test in which PET scans are obtained while at rest followed by the administration of other drugs to examine blood flow to the heart under exercise conditions.
Does the PET scan pose any risks?
Although a radiotracer chemical is used in this test, the amount of radiation you are exposed to is low.
The dose of tracer used is so small that it does not affect the normal processes of the body. However, the radiotracer may expose the fetus of patients who are pregnant or infants of women who breastfeeding to the radiation. You and your doctor need to consider this risk compared with the need for and potential information to be gained from the PET scan.
MRI of the Body
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat a wide array of medical conditions.
MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses, and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone, and virtually all other internal body structures.
MRI does not use ionizing radiation (x-rays). Detailed MR images allow physicians to evaluate various parts of the body and determine the presence of certain diseases. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor, transmitted electronically, printed or copied to a CD. MR imaging of the body is performed to evaluate organs of the chest and abdomen—including the heart, liver, biliary tract, kidneys, spleen, bowel, pancreas, and adrenal glands. MRI’s also view pelvic organs including the bladder and the reproductive organs such as the uterus and ovaries in females; the prostate gland in males; also blood vessels (including MR Angiography) and lymph nodes.
Ultrasound is safe and painless, and produces pictures of the inside of the body using sound waves.
Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves the use of a small transducer (probe) and ultrasound gel placed directly on the skin. High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the probe through the gel into the body. Abdominal ultrasound imaging is performed to evaluate the kidneys, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen and abdominal aorta and other blood vessels of the abdomen.
Ultrasound is used to help diagnose a variety of conditions, such as abdominal pain or distention, abnormal liver function, enlarged abdominal organ, stones in the gallbladder or kidney, or aneurysms in the aorta. Ultrasound is used to help diagnose a variety of conditions, such as abdominal pain or distention, abnormal liver function, enlarged abdominal organ, stones in the gallbladder or kidney, an aneurysm in the aorta.
Meet the Body Imaging Team
Christopher Nieman MD
Christopher Nieman, MD
Ohio State University 1997-2001
Residency & Internship Programs:
Brooke Army Medical Center – Transitional Internship 2001-2002
San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium – Radiology Residency 2002-2006
Abdominal Imaging & Intervention Fellowship:
Duke University Medical Center 2010-2011
Richard J. Rizzo MD
Richard J. Rizzo, M.D.
Abdominal Imaging/Body Imaging
Thomas Jefferson University,
Jefferson Medical College 1985-1989
Residency & Internship Programs:
Medical College of Virginia – Radiology Residency 1989-1993
Abdominal Imaging Fellowship:
Medical College of Virginia 1993-1994
Blake H. Watts MD
Blake H. Watts, M.D.
University of Virginia School of Medicine 1981-1985
Residency & Internship Programs:
Medical College of Virginia – Internal Medicine Residency 1985-1987
University of Virginia – Radiology Residency 1987-1991
Body Imaging Fellowship:
Medical College of Virginia 1991-1992
Kyle W. Young MD
Our doctors are specialists. Click on their pictures above to learn more about their area of expertise and education.