Medical Tests & Procedures

Medical Tests & Procedures Articles

Breast Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures inside the body. This imaging technique works in a manner similar to radar and sonar. Ultrasound was developed in World War II to detect airplanes, missiles, and submarines that were otherwise invisible. The doctor or ultrasound technician first coats a small area of your skin with a lubricant to reduce friction. He or she then places an ultrasound transducer, which looks like a microphone, on your skin and may rub it back and forth to get the right view. The transducer sends sound waves into your body and picks up the echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off internal organs and tissue. A computer transforms these echoes into an image that is displayed on a monitor. A breast ultrasound can indicate whether a breast lump is caused by a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass, such as cancer. (Locked) More »

Carotid Ultrasound (Carotid Doppler)

Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures inside the body. This imaging technique works in a manner similar to radar and sonar, developed in World War II to detect airplanes, missiles, and submarines that were otherwise invisible. After coating a small area of your skin with a lubricant to reduce friction, a radiologist or ultrasound technician places an ultrasound transducer, which looks like a microphone, on your skin and may rub it back and forth to get the right view. The transducer sends sound waves into your body and picks up the echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off internal organs and tissue. A computer transforms these echoes into an image that is displayed on a monitor. Doppler ultrasound is a variation of this technique that not only shows internal structures but also examines the flow of blood through blood vessels. Using the Doppler effect—the change in the frequency of sound or light waves as they bounce off a moving object—this kind of ultrasound produces an image of blood in motion. A Carotid ultrasound shows the amount of blood flow in the carotid arteries, the major blood vessels to the brain located on either side of your neck. With this imaging technique, your doctor can see if there is any narrowing of your carotid arteries because of cholesterol deposits or some other problem. This test is often used to evaluate people who have had a stroke or who might be at high risk for one because of reduced blood flow in the carotid arteries. (Locked) More »

Cystourethrogram

By filling your bladder with a liquid dye that shows up on x-rays, your doctor can watch the motion of your bladder as it fills and empties and can see if your urine splashes backwards toward your kidneys as the bladder muscle squeezes. This kind of test can help your doctor to better understand problems with repeated urinary tract infections or problems involving damage to the kidneys. It can also be useful for evaluating urine leakage problems. Tell your doctor before the test if you have ever had an allergic reaction to x-ray dye (IV contrast dye). Also let your doctor know if there is any chance you are pregnant. You wear a hospital gown and lie on a table in the x-ray department. A part of your genital area is cleaned with soap on a cotton swab. Then a soft, bendable rubber tube called a urinary catheter is inserted into your bladder, usually by a nurse. The tube is first coated with a slippery jelly and then pushed gently through the opening of the urethra (at the end of the penis for men and near the opening of the vagina for women). (Locked) More »

Electromyography and Nerve Conduction Studies (EMG)

Electromyography (EMG) tests analyze nerve and muscle electrical activity. Some types of electrical activity are normal, whereas some patterns of electrical activity suggest a disease of nerves or muscles. Nerve conduction studies are tests that are often used in combination with the EMG evaluation. For nerve conduction studies, the muscles and nerves are stimulated with small bursts of electricity to see whether the nerves and muscles respond in a normal way. No preparation is necessary. For the EMG, thin needles are inserted one by one into the muscles being tested. These needles are not hollow, and they are thinner than the type of needle used to draw blood. Each needle is attached to a wire that gives signals to a machine. The needle acts like an antenna to detect electrical patterns inside the muscle and the nerves that are attached to that muscle. Most patients find this test mildly uncomfortable. (Locked) More »

Electrophysiological Testing of the Heart

If you have an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), cardiologists can use an electrophysiologic study (EPS) to find out what part of the heart is causing this change in rhythm and what medicines will work best to bring that rhythm back to normal. Sometimes doctors will recommend a treatment called ablation that can be done during EPS testing. Ablation uses radiofrequency waves (like microwaves) to destroy a very small area of heart tissue to stop the arrhythmia from happening. You will need to sign a consent form giving your doctor permission to perform this test. Tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to lidocaine or the numbing medicine used at the dentist's office. Also tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any heart medicines. Talk with your doctor ahead of time if you are taking insulin, or if you take medicines that affect blood clotting. It may be necessary to stop or adjust the dose of these medicines before your test. You may need to have a blood test done some time before the procedure to make sure they are not at high risk for bleeding complications. (Locked) More »

Excisional Biopsy of the Breast

In an excisional biopsy of the breast, the surgeon makes an incision in the skin and removes all or part of the abnormal tissue for examination under a microscope. Unlike needle biopsies, a surgical biopsy leaves a visible scar on the breast and sometimes causes a noticeable change in the breast's shape. It's a good idea to discuss the placement and length of the incision with your surgeon beforehand. Also ask your surgeon about scarring and the possibility of changes to your breast shape and size after healing, as well as the choice between local anesthesia and general anesthesia. You'll undergo a breast exam and possibly a mammogram before the biopsy to determine where the lump is located. If you are having a sedative with local anesthesia, or if you are having general anesthesia, you'll be asked not to eat anything after midnight on the day before the surgery. Tell your doctor if you're taking insulin, NSAIDs, or any medicine that can affect blood clotting. You might have to stop or adjust the dose of these medicines before your test. (Locked) More »

Holter Monitor and Event Monitor

A Holter monitor is a portable EKG device that records your heart rhythm over time, outside the hospital or doctor's office. Whereas a regular EKG examines your heart's electrical activity for a few seconds, the Holter monitor examines changes over a sustained period of time-usually a 24- to 48-hour period-while you go about your daily activities and even while you sleep. One type of Holter monitor, called an "event monitor," can be used to record rhythms over a longer time, such as a 30-day period. Doctors use Holter monitor or event monitor tests to evaluate symptoms that come and go and that might be related to heart-rhythm changes or coronary artery disease. Men with a lot of hair on their chest will probably have to shave it. Otherwise, there's no special preparation. A technician in your doctor's office or a diagnostic lab fits you with a Holter monitor and explains how to use it. Five stickers are attached to your chest. Wires snap onto each of these stickers and connect them to the monitor. The wires detect your heart's electrical pattern throughout the day, while the monitor records and stores the data for doctors to interpret later. You can fit the monitor into a purse or jacket pocket or wear it over your shoulder by its strap. (Locked) More »

Hysteroscopy

Hysteroscopy is a procedure that allows a gynecologist to look inside your uterus. The hysteroscope is a long tube, about the size of a straw, which has a built-in viewing device. Hysteroscopy is useful for diagnosing and treating some problems that cause infertility, miscarriages, and abnormal menstrual bleeding. Sometimes other procedures, such as laparoscopy, are done at the same time as hysteroscopy. The time that you schedule this test can be important. Your gynecologist is able to get the best view of the uterine lining during the week that follows your period. If you have regular cycles, it is helpful for you to anticipate the timing of your next period and plan to have the hysteroscopy done in the following week. Tell your doctor ahead of time if you have ever had an allergic reaction to lidocaine or the numbing medicine used at the dentist's office. Discuss different options for anesthesia with your doctor in advance. (Locked) More »

Lumbar Puncture (or Spinal Tap)

A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, uses a needle to remove a sample of fluid from the space surrounding the spinal cord. This fluid is known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The test is used to diagnose infections, such as meningitis, and some neurological conditions. You will need to sign a consent form, which is generally required when the procedure is done outside of an emergency situation. Tell your doctor ahead of time if you have ever had an allergic reaction to lidocaine or the numbing medicine used at the dentist's office. Doctors routinely do a physical examination and in some cases order a CT scan of the brain before recommending a lumbar puncture. The CT scan is performed when doctors suspect a medical problem that could put you at risk for movement of the brain during the procedure, a very rare but serious complication. (Locked) More »

Mediastinoscopy

Mediastinoscopy is a surgery that allows doctors to view the middle of the chest cavity and to do minor surgery through very small incisions. It allows surgeons or pulmonary doctors to remove lymph nodes from between the lungs and to test them for cancer or infection. It is also useful for examining the outside surface of the large tubes of the airways or for evaluating tumors or masses in the middle chest. Discuss the specific procedures planned during your mediastinoscopy ahead of time with your doctor. This procedure is done by either a surgeon or a trained pulmonary specialist. You will need to sign a consent form giving your surgeon permission to perform this test. If you are taking insulin, discuss this with your doctor before the test. If you take aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, vitamin E, or other medicines that affect blood clotting, talk with your doctor. It may be necessary to stop or adjust the dose of these medicines before your test. It is likely that you will be able to go home the same day as the surgery, but you will need to arrange for someone else to drive you home. This is because you will have received medicines that can leave you drowsy for some hours after the procedure. (Locked) More »