Medical Tests & Procedures

Medical Tests & Procedures Articles

Heart tests before surgery: When are they necessary?

A preoperative evaluation (sometimes called "clearance" for surgery) helps assess a person’s chances of experiencing a heart-related problem during surgery. These check-ups typically involve a physical exam and may include blood tests, x-rays, and an electrocardiogram (ECG). Some major surgeries, such as a hip replacement, can tax the cardiovascular system, possibly uncovering previously undiagnosed heart disease. Other minor, low-risk procedures, such as cataract removal, put very little strain on the heart and usually don’t require a preoperative ECG. (Locked) More »

Testing for dementia

There is no cure for dementia, and people cannot substantially reverse its effects, but there are ways to possibly slow its progression. But first, people need to know if they may have a memory disorder. Testing to confirm Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is a multilayered process that includes several types of neuropsychological evaluations and biomarker testing. (Locked) More »

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 »

Chorionic Villus Sampling

Chorionic villi are small branching structures on one side of the placenta. They anchor the placenta to the wall of the uterus, almost like the roots of a plant. They have another root-like function, which is to absorb nutrients from the mother's blood in the lining of her uterus, and to deliver these to the umbilical cord. These structures contain cells from the developing fetus. A test that removes a sample of these cells through a needle is called chorionic villus sampling (CVS). CVS answers many of the same questions as amniocentesis about diseases that the baby might have. Diseases that can be diagnosed with CVS include Tay-Sachs, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, thalassemia, and Down syndrome. (Rh incompatibility and neural tube defects, however, can be diagnosed only through amniocentesis.) CVS can be done earlier in pregnancy than amniocentesis and can be done when there is not enough amniotic fluid to allow amniocentesis. However, it has some extra risks when compared with amniocentesis. CVS can be done between the 10th and 13th weeks of pregnancy. 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. (Locked) More »


A urinalysis is a routine examination of the urine for cells, tiny structures, bacteria, and chemicals that suggest various illnesses. A urine culture attempts to grow large numbers of bacteria from a urine sample to diagnose a bacterial urine infection. For a regular urinalysis, you are asked to urinate briefly into a plastic cup. When urine is collected for a urine culture, you must provide a "clean catch" sample - one that is not contaminated by skin cells and skin bacteria. This is so the doctor can obtain a sample of urine from inside your bladder, where normally there should be no bacteria. In contrast, there are many bacteria on the skin of a penis or in a vagina. The trick (harder for a woman than a man) is to pee directly into a sterile container without having the stream of urine first touch your skin or the nonsterile tissues of the vagina. To collect a clean catch sample, you are given a sterile plastic container and asked to wipe off the area around your urethra (where urine exits) with an antiseptic cloth. For women, it's also helpful to hold the two labia (outer walls) of the vagina apart with one hand when you urinate, so that the stream of urine passes directly into the sterile container. Since the first flow of urine is most likely to be contaminated by bacteria from around the opening of the urethra, first urinate for a moment into the toilet and then use the cup to collect the "middle" portion of your urine stream. (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 »