The Radiology Department provides many speciality services to help our clinicians diagnose and treat patients. These services range from basic x-ray examinations to highly specialist investigations using often complex equipment. Please note, not all services are provided on all of our sites.
Computed Tomography (CT)
CT scanning is a fast, accurate and non invasive way of producing high quality cross sectional images of the body. It is used to help doctors diagnose and treat many different types of medical conditions.
It consists of a table that the patient lies on and a 'donut shaped' scanner gantry that houses an X-ray tube. The patient passes through the scanner as the X-ray tube rotates within the gantry. The scanner uses sophisticated computer technology to detect the X-ray radiation passing through the body and produces detailed cross-sectional images of the different tissues within the body. Different computer software applications can be used to construct images for analysis by a consultant radiologist.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
A medical imaging modality - which can visualise the insides of the human body in very high detail, MRI is particularly useful when imaging the body's 'soft tissues'. This makes it very useful in the detection of various cancers, abnormalities of the brain and heart, and musculoskeletal conditions.
MRI stands for 'Magnetic Resonance Imaging', and the technique utilises magnetism to affect atoms in the body known as protons, which respond to magnetic fields. Organ / tissues are made up of varying water / fat content which produces different types of signal intensity on the images on the various pulse sequences employed by the MRI scanners. As MRI does not use radiation, it is believed to be one of the safest forms of diagnostic imaging, making it generally an extremely safe procedure. We do however have to carefully screen patients so that they can be imaged safely as there are known contra-indications to MRI such as pacemakers.
Ultrasound is simply a frequency of sound which the (adult) human ear is incapable of detecting. It is used in radiology by emitting soundwaves which reflect back to the detection device, and thus build up a 'picture' of the target area. Ultrasound has been used by radiologists for more than 50 years, and is most famously used in the monitoring of the foetus in the womb. It is also, however, useful in visualizing tendons, muscles and various internal organs - indeed, non-obstetric ultrasound examinations constitute 65% of all scans conducted.
Ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation, and is generally described as a 'safe test', meaning that patients can undergo sonography with confidence and without concern. Though ultrasound is capable of 'heating' soft tissue, modern ultrasound equipment does not utilise power levels of sufficient intensity to make this heat damaging. Rather, ultrasound is a versatile imaging modality capable of detecting a wide variety of soft tissue conditions.
Nuclear Medicine Imaging
The Nuclear Medicine Department performs scans and tests which look at how different parts of the body function. About half of scans that are performed are bone scans and these are required for a number of reasons including looking for difficult to detect fractures, loose joint replacements, rheumatology assessments, as well as to exclude secondary tumours after a cancer diagnosis.
Some of the other scans performed include lung scans to look for blood clots (pulmonary emboli), kidney scans to see how the kidneys are functioning or draining, sentinel node scans to show lymph drainage of a tumour prior to surgery, white cell scans to look for infections, brain scans to distinguish between Parkinson's Syndrome or essential tremor, parathyroid & thyroid scans to look for cysts and lumps, as well as heart scans to look at the blood supply to the heart muscle in those suffering from angina (chest pains), plus many others.
Most scans require the administration of a small injection, similar to a blood test, to introduce a scanning agent. Different scanning agents enable us to scan different parts of the body, and different scans have different delay times. Some scans require you to be scanned immediately after the injection, others after 2, 3, 4, 24 or even 48 hours depending what scan the Doctor or Consultant has asked us to perform.
The scanning agent that is administered contains Gamma Rays, which is a different form of radiation to X-Rays. Gamma rays are produced from the nucleus of the atom, rather than X-rays which are produced from the shells surrounding the atom. It is the Gamma Rays that have been injected that are emitted by the body, and it is the distribution pattern of these emissions that are detected by the scanning camera (called a Gamma Camera), and this information is computed into an image for the Consultant Radiologist to report on.
Bone Mineral Density can affect many patients particularly the elder generation who suffer from fragility fractures. It also needs to be monitored in more recent years on patients who are prescribed certain drugs for the treatment of breast cancer, cystic fibrosis and coeliac disease.
Fluoroscopy is one of many imaging modalities in our busy radiology department. Digital fluoroscopy uses x-rays to produce images of the body part under investigation on a fluorescent screen which is coupled to a digital video processor. The images are displayed on a visual display unit in real time.
These images are used to diagnose patients suffering from various disorders including but not limited to swallowing disorders (barium swallow & video fluoroscopy), large bowel complaints (e.g. Barium Enema), stomal adjustment following gastric band surgery (gastric band adjustment), infertility (HSG), difficulty in passing water and urinary tract infection (Micturating cystogram), follow up checks after gastro intestinal surgery (water soluble swallow / water soluble enema), small bowel symptoms (small bowel enema & barium follow through) etc.
The Cardiac Catheter suites use x-rays to produce images of the coronary arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. These images are used to help diagnose patients suffering from chest pain, angina and breathlessness.
Depending on the results of this test patients may receive either no further treatment, medical treatment (tablets), coronary intervention (stents) or be referred for surgical treatment (by-pass). They are also used for the insertion of pacemakers or internal defibrillators.
© Radiology Directorate, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust est. 2010 http://www.heft-radiology.co.uk/