Medical Tests & Procedures

Medical Tests & Procedures Articles

Checking for an abdominal aortic aneurysm: Who, when, and why?

Guidelines recommend that men ages 65 to 75 who have ever smoked cigarettes be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). But other people at high risk might also consider this one-time test. These include older men and women with a family history of AAA and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or atherosclerotic heart disease. The screening test is simple and painless, and it costs roughly $50, which is fully covered by Medicare for men who meet the guideline criteria, as well as for people ages 65 to 75 with a family history of AAA. (Locked) More »

Is there an age limit for a colonoscopy?

Whether men age 80 and older should have a colonoscopy depends upon many factors. Yet, the most important question is whether anything found on the colonoscopy will lead to treatment that improves a person’s quality of life. (Locked) More »

2020 vision: Cardiology trends to watch

Several new cardiology technologies are gaining traction, including digital stethoscopes, handheld ultrasound devices, and a cuffless blood pressure monitor. Designed for use with smartphones or tablets, they hold the promise of faster, non-invasive diagnoses of various heart-related conditions. A lab-on-a-chip may help researchers find better anti-clotting medications, and a drug that lowers stubbornly high cholesterol with just two injections per year is being tested. (Locked) More »

Angioplasty and stenting through the arm

When doctors insert a stent into the heart’s artery, they usually enter the body through an artery at the top of the thigh. But for some people, using a vessel in the arm may be a safer and less costly option. (Locked) More »

What to do about incidental findings

Medical imaging can reveal unexpected anomalies. An incidental finding might be a nodule or tumor (abnormal growths that may be benign or malignant) or a cyst (a fluid-filled or debris-filled sac). For example, the doctor may order a chest x-ray in a person with a bad cough to look for pneumonia, but the radiologist finds nodules instead. Such incidental findings can lead to more testing, more medical bills, and a great deal of anxiety. (Locked) More »

Why you need an annual wellness visit

The annual wellness visit, also called a preventive health visit, offers valuable insight for the doctor and patient. For many people, this is the only chance to have an in-depth conversation about their health, address concerns, look at preventive measures, and create health goals and expectations. (Locked) More »

Arterial Blood Flow Studies of the Legs (Segmental Doppler Pressures)

People who have leg pain when exercising may need an evaluation to make sure they have normal blood flow through their leg arteries. Normally blood pressure is similar whether it is measured in the legs or in the arms. If blood pressure is lower in the legs, it usually means that cholesterol buildup inside the leg arteries is interfering with circulation. By taking accurate blood pressure measurements at different locations along your legs, your doctors can determine if you have any arterial narrowing and, if so, where. In order to get accurate blood pressure measurements, your doctor uses a technique called Doppler ultrasound. Doppler ultrasound is a painless way to detect blood flowing through a small artery. It uses sound waves and a type of sonar detection system to make noise when blood flow is detected. For arterial studies of the legs (called segmental Doppler pressures), Doppler ultrasound is used in place of the stethoscope that doctors usually use when taking blood pressures. You may want to wear shorts for this exam, and your feet should be bare during the test. If you are not wearing shorts, you may have to change into a hospital gown. (Locked) More »

Back X-Rays (Spine X-Rays)

Doctors have used x-rays for over a century to see inside the body in order to diagnose a variety of problems, including cancer, fractures, and pneumonia. During this test, you usually stand in front of a photographic plate while a machine sends x-rays, a type of radiation, through your body. Originally, a photograph of internal structures was produced on film; nowadays, the image created by the x-rays goes directly into a computer. Dense structures, such as bone, appear white on the x-ray films because they absorb many of the x-ray beams and block them from reaching the plate. Hollow body parts, such as lungs, appear dark because x-rays pass through them. Doctors use back x-rays to examine the vertebrae in the spine for fractures, arthritis, or spine deformities such as scoliosis, as well as for signs of infection or cancer. X-rays can be taken separately for the three areas of the spine: the cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (middle back), and lumbar spine (lower back). Occasionally, doctors x-ray the pelvis to help diagnose the cause of back pain. You have to remove all clothing, undergarments, and jewelry from your upper body. You may be asked to wear a hospital gown. (Locked) More »

Barium Swallow (Upper Gastrointestinal Series or Upper GI Series)

A barium swallow, or upper GI series, is an x-ray test used to examine the upper digestive tract (the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine). Because these organs are normally not visible on x-rays, you need to swallow barium, a liquid that does show up on x-rays. The barium temporarily coats the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine, making the outline of these organs visible on the x-ray pictures. This test is useful for diagnosing cancers, ulcers, problems that cause narrowing of the esophagus, some causes of inflammation in the intestine, and some swallowing problems. Tell your doctor and the x-ray technicians if there is any chance you could be pregnant. If you have diabetes and take insulin, discuss this with your doctor before the test. Stop eating and drinking the night before your test. This is important because food in your stomach or intestine could prevent the doctors from seeing a clear outline of these structures on the x-rays. Usually it isn't a problem for you to take your regular pills, but you should check with your doctor. (Locked) More »