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​A Closer Look at Medical Imaging

UPMC's imaging services include CT scans, mammography, radiography, MRI and ultrasound.Medical imaging plays an integral role in diagnosing medical conditions of all kinds —
 from broken bones to life-threatening tumors.

UPMC radiologists are leaders in helping to ensure both quality and patient safety during testing.

Medical imaging lets your doctor take an immediate and detailed look deep inside your body. More than 200 non-invasive tests are used to diagnose medical problems that once required exploratory surgery — or simply went undetected.

Types of Medical Imaging

Imaging tests that use ionizing radiation include:

Others use a different form of energy:

As the use of diagnostic tests increases, there’s growing research on their long-term impact on patient health. That’s especially true for radiation-based tests and their possible link to cancer.

“Many medical professionals are concerned about some of the methods used to calculate the risk posed by such tests, and the confusion it’s creating among patients,” says Mitchell Tublin, MD, chief of radiology at UPMC Presbyterian and a leading expert on CT scans.

“It’s important to talk to your doctor before deferring a test so that you clearly understand both the risks and benefits offered.”

Setting the Standard Nationally

UPMC has one of the largest radiology programs in the United States, and its radiologists include some of the nation’s leading authorities on medical imaging safety.

“On many fronts, we are helping to define the national safety standards for both patients and health care personnel,” says Emanuel Kanal, MD, director of magnetic resonance services at UPMC Presbyterian, whose innovative work on MRIs has been adopted by both the Food and Drug Administration and the American College of Radiology.

“As a health care system, UPMC is continually investing in research, training, and equipment to minimize patient risk, such as radiation exposure from medical imaging,” says Christopher Deible, MD, PhD, medical director of radiology informatics at UPMC Presbyterian.

“We’re also working to standardize imaging services at all UPMC hospitals, following best practices, and participating in national reporting initiatives.”

For women preparing to schedule their next annual mammogram, Jules Sumkin, DO, chief of radiology at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, emphasizes that nothing is more regulated in medical imaging than mammography. “There are very strict guidelines, and UPMC has always operated at or below established national standards for radiation exposure,” he says.

“New technologies like digital mammograms further reduce what are already very low radiation levels.”

What Can You Do to be Proactive?

“Ask your doctor if a nonradiation test — like an MRI or ultrasound — can be substituted. That’s not always possible, though, since tests like CT scans may provide a higher level of detail that could be essential in some conditions,” says Janet Durick, MD, vice chair of clinical operations for the Department of Radiology for UPMC.

“You should also ask if a test is truly needed — and don’t be disappointed if your physician doesn’t order an imaging test for a condition that could be addressed through a medical examination.”

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