Wise patients should ask pointed questions before submitting to any imaging scan. Here is a list, adapted from Patrick Malone’s book, The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care — and Avoiding the Worst.
- Is the scanning machine the latest generational available? If not, is there another facility nearby that has the latest generation? (In MRI scans for example, the stronger magnets on newer machines make for crisper images.)
- Does the doctor who wants me to have this scan own the scanning equipment or the scanning facility? (If so, get an opinion from another doctor with no financial interest about whether you need the scan at this facility.)
- Who will interpret the images? Is that doctor a sub-specialist in what’s being studied? (Examples of radiology sub-specialties include musculo-skeletal, neuroradiology (brain and spine), abdominal and chest.) If not, can we get a second reading from a sub-specialist?
- Is the scanning facility accredited by the American College of Radiology? (This ensures that basic standards are met, such as the technologist who runs the scanning machine being certified and the machine being regularly inspected for proper functioning.)
Involved patients will also want to sit down with the doctor and look at the images together. You will notice how much more detail comes out when the scan has been done on an up-to-date machine by well-trained personnel.
Remember: It’s easy — and sometimes free – to get a second opinion on a diagnostic imaging study. It’s also easy to “trade up” in the level of expertise of the radiologist. Especially if the radiologist reading your study is a general radiologist, you should consider asking for a specialist to take a look.
Radiology specialties include:
- Neuroradiology for brain and spine.
- Pediatric neuroradiology for babies and children. This is an especially important specialty when evaluating a child with birth-related brain damage.
- Musculo-skeletal radiology.
- Breast radiology or mammographers.
- Chest radiology.
- Abdominal radiology.
- Cardiovascular radiology.
- Interventional and vascular radiology.
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