Five questions for your first imaging center visit

Going to an imaging center for the first time can prompt many questions. Here are a few to get you started.

Imaging has had a significant impact on health care, becoming as important in the physician’s tool belt as the stethoscope. The ability to identify and locate issues within the body has truly benefitted people suffering from many diseases such as cancer, orthopedic and neurologic conditions, among others.

While visits to imaging centers are part of mainstream health care, patients can be curious upon their first visit. To help understand what radiology and imaging units do, here are five commonly asked questions you may have before your first visit.

1. What is a radiologist?

Radiologists are physicians who interpret medical images and are trained in numerous subspecialties including: breast, neurologic and orthopedic imaging, among others. Each has endured years of residency and subspecialty fellowship training and work with other medical specialists as part of a collaborative team to provide comprehensive care. Vital members of care teams, radiologists are trained to provide the best imaging technology to accurately diagnose the condition, and sometimes treat it.

2. How do I prepare?

Preparation can vary due to the sophistication of modern medical imaging and the amount of different modalities or techniques to image the body. In some cases, patients don’t need to prepare. But some tests require fasting or drinking contrast material to further enhance the images. Instructions will be clearly explained when scheduling an appointment.

3. What type of imaging studies are performed?

Radiology entails many types of imaging studies, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, nuclear imaging — positron emission tomography (PET) — radiography (X-rays) and mammography. Many image-guided procedures are performed using these modalities to directly focus on the source of the patient’s problem.

4. Should I be concerned about radiation?

Imaging technology and protocols, especially at Northwell Health, are constantly improving to provide the lowest dose of radiation possible. Low-dose CT scanners and fluoroscopy equipment help utilize as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) doses of radiation. This is particularly important in pediatric imaging. Radiologists will also work closely with your doctor to recommend alternate imaging studies that don’t require radiation, such as ultrasound and MRIs, when appropriate.

5. How do I get the results of my exam?

Results are sent electronically to your doctor after your exam is interpreted by a radiologist. In urgent cases, radiologists call your physician to provide immediate results. Some institutions, including Northwell, upload the images to patient portals.

Daniel M. Walz, MD, is chief of Ambulatory Imaging Operations and Business Development, as well as chief of Musculoskeletal Imaging for Northwell Health. Specializing in musculoskeletal imaging and procedural services, Dr. Walz manages a group of eight fellowship-trained musculoskeletal radiologists — the largest subspecialty trained group on Long Island.

Northwell has several imaging centers across metro New York.