National Imaging Associates

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Educating Yourself on Imaging

When used appropriately, medical imaging tests used to arrive at a diagnosis - such as x-rays, CT scans and PET scans - can be beneficial in helping your doctor understand and treat a health issue. However, the very medical imaging that can provide your doctor with valuable information about your health, has limits to what it can do. It's important to be aware of these limits because the use of CT scanning, in particular, is rapidly increasing - yet approximately one-third of all CT scans are considered by many health care authorities to be unnecessary.

No one imaging test is "best" in all cases. Different procedures work better when diagnosing certain conditions. And, it is important to keep in mind that CT scans, PET scans and x-rays expose you to potentially harmful radiation, while MRIs and ultrasounds do not. If a diagnostic imaging test has been recommended for you or a loved one, empower yourself to make an informed health care decision by learning about all the benefits and risks of the suggested test.

To help ensure that you and your loved ones receive the right scan at the right time, learn about the diagnostic imaging test, talk openly with your doctor, ask questions and go to an accredited imaging facility.

Important Questions

By learning about diagnostic medical imaging and asking informed questions, you're helping to ensure safe, appropriate and affordable health care for yourself and your family. We urge you to educate yourself about each and every diagnostic exam or procedure you're considering and then talk with your doctor to ensure that you fully understand your options.

Because children may be more sensitive to the radiation exposure as a consequence of some diagnostic imaging, it is especially important for parents to be health care advocates for their children. To make the best choices in the interest of your child's health, talk with your child's physician and ask informed questions.

Important Questions to Ask Before You Get a Scan

  1. Is the diagnostic medical imaging test necessary?
    Your doctor's training and experience are sometimes all that are needed to take care of your health problem, without the need for diagnostic imaging. Or, there may be an alternative medical diagnostic imaging test, such as an MRI, that does not use radiation.
  2. How old is the scanner and when was the software upgraded?
    Both the scanner and the software should have been updated within the last few years.
  3. What is the strength of the imaging equipment?
    Closed MRI machines should be at least one Tesla (a measure of scan strength) to obtain a superior quality examination. For open MRI machines, half a Tesla is the norm, but may be inadequate for more sophisticated examinations.
  4. Why is this the best imaging facility for my test?
    A common quality measure for imaging facilities, is certification by the American College of Radiology (you can learn about ACR certification at Also, because there is always a concern about decisions influenced by monitory gain, find out if your doctor has a financial interest in the imaging facility.
  5. What is your radiologist's specialty?
    While his or her specialty is first radiology, most have further training in specific areas of diagnostic imaging (e.g. orthopedics, pediatrics or neuro-radiology), and a match of talent should be relevant to your condition. 

Important Questions to Ask Before Your Child Gets a Scan

  1. Could a non-radiation imaging test be just as useful for my child?
    Many childhood diseases and conditions can be diagnosed using state-of-the-art diagnostic medical imaging equipment and countless children have benefited from this technology. Still, unnecessary radiation exposure during medical procedures should be avoided whenever possible - especially for children.

    Because children generally live longer than adults, they may be more sensitive to radiation and the potential for radiation exposure developing into cancer is more prevalent. Also, children's bodies are growing, which means their cells are dividing more rapidly than adults. This results in a greater opportunity for radiation to disrupt the growing process.
  2. Does the imaging facility scheduled to perform the imaging test use radiation dose reduction techniques when scanning children?
    The imaging facility should be able to provide you with information detailing how they reduce radiation doses.
  3. Will I be able to go with my child into the scanner room?
    Often a parent can remain with a child during the procedure and even hold his or her hand. Confirm with your imaging facility whether you will be allowed to do this and let your child know what to expect.
  4. Does the imaging facility have an American College of Radiology accreditation?
    Certification by the American College of Radiology is a common quality measure for imaging facilities (you can learn about ACR certification at Also, be sure to ask whether the imaging technologists have credentials and if the person interpreting the test is a board-certified radiologist or pediatric radiologist.

Most doctors are fairly well-versed in the latest medical imaging technology and they should be happy to answer your questions. And remember, that while it is important to understand reasons why you may not need a medical imaging test, it is just as important to understand why you may need it. Remember that just because you or a loved one is a "patient," it doesn't mean that you should not be a wise "purchaser."

Take an active role in the diagnostic medical imaging process for your health and your child's health. Empower yourself with informed questions to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure and to improve your overall health care experience.