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Medical Imaging/Radiology

Medical imaging

New Ulm Medical Center's Radiology Department maintains a full range of advanced diagnostic technology for peering inside the human body to identify medical conditions or disease.

The Radiology Department is open 24 hours a day to provide services to inpatients, outpatients and Emergency Department patients. Scheduled radiology procedures are usually done from 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Before visiting our department, patients receive information specific to their exam or procedure based on the order from the referring physician. This information includes any dietary restrictions or other preparations that may need to be done prior to the visit. Please take time to review this information carefully.

The Radiology Department is licensed or certified by the following entities: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration. New Ulm Medical Center is a Certified Mammography Facility.

The 80-slice CT scanner is a doughnut-shaped machine that takes pictures of cross-sections of the body, called "slices." An x-ray tube moves in a circular fashion around the area being scanned. The rays are picked up on a detector, fed into a computer and then processed into a detailed cross sectional image on a computer screen.
A digital mammogram is like traditional film screen mammography. Both use x-ray to generate images of the breast. However, instead of using film to capture and record the image, a digital mammogram uses a special detector to capture and convert x-ray energy into a digital image, making the images immediately available to the radiologist for diagnosis. The benefit to patients is there is no waiting for film to be developed, reducing the time patients spend at New Ulm Medical Center, as well as reducing the need for repeat exams due to under or over exposure.
DXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry), which is the "gold standard" procedure for measuring bone density, uses two beams of X-ray to measure bone structure deep within soft tissue, usually the pelvis, head of the femur, and the spine. DXA exposes the patient to only 1/20 the amount of radiation of a routine chest X-ray and far less than full dental X-rays.
X-rays do not show detailed images within the digestive tract, esophagus, stomach, small bowel, and colon. To acquire an x-ray of these areas, it is necessary to use a contrast agent. Imaging of the upper digestive tract, often called an "upper GI series," includes the organs from the mouth to the beginning of the small intestine; the contrast agent is taken orally. Imaging of the lower digestive tract, often called a barium enema, includes the colon and rectum; the contrast agent is administered as an enema at the time of your imaging appointment. The small bowel, the portion of your digestive tract between the stomach and the colon, may also be visualized with the use of oral barium.
Interventional radiology, one of the most complex and patient-care-oriented fields in radiology, is a medical specialty that uses image-guided, minimally invasive diagnostic and treatment techniques that are often an alternative to surgery.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the newest, and perhaps most versatile, medical imaging technology available. Doctors receive highly refined images of the body's interior without surgery, using MRI.

MRI uses a strong magnet and radio waves to create extremely detailed images of soft tissue (nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments) and bone. MRI does not use radiation.

MRI is particularly useful for imaging the brain and spine, as well as the soft tissues of joints and the interior structure of bones. Any area of the body can be imaged using MRI. There are few known health risks. The imaging is painless.

Nuclear medicine is a safe, painless, and effective form of medical imaging, which has been used worldwide for more than 60 years. This area of radiology uses small amounts of radioactive material (sometimes called a dose) to image the body and treat disease. Nuclear medicine differs from other areas of radiology because it looks at how a body part is working, not just what it looks like.

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a medical diagnostic, imaging procedure that provides doctors with information about the body's chemistry, cell function and location of disease. Unlike CT or MRI, which look at anatomy or body structure, PET/CT studies body function or the biology of diseases.

How PET/CT is used

PET scans are used by doctors in the fields of oncology, cardiology, neurology and psychiatry to show various disease states.

  • PET/CT can help your oncologist tell if a tumor is cancerous.
  • PET/CT enables the cardiologist to screen for heart disease and evaluate damage from heart attacks.
  • PET/CT images can also be used to detect the early signs of neurological diseases.

Technology of PET/CT

As a nuclear medicine technique, PET/CT involves a combination of biochemistry and technology. Cells in the body rely on glucose as an energy source, and typically, cells of the body that require more fuel (such as actively growing cancer) will metabolize glucose at a faster rate than other cells. A radioactive form of glucose called fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) is injected into and distributed throughout the patient's body. The PE/CT scanner then tracks and records the signals the FDG emits. A computer then reconstructs the signals into whole-body images that show areas throughout the body where diseases are present. Areas that are metabolizing more FDG than others will show up on the resulting images.

Diagnostic medical sonography uses high-frequency sound waves as the imaging tool. There is no radiation exposure and, unlike therapeutic ultrasound, it induces no physiological changes within body tissues. Ultrasound uses low energy sound waves, beyond the range of audible sound, in order to create images.

An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. The picture is much more detailed than a plain x-ray image and involves no radiation exposure. A trained sonographer performs the test and your heart doctor interprets the results. An instrument called a transducer that transmits high-frequency sound waves is placed on your ribs near the breast bone and directed toward the heart.

Additional images will be taken underneath and slightly to the left of your nipple (at the apex of your heart). The transducer picks up the echoes of the sound waves and transmits them as electrical impulses. The echocardiography machine converts these impulses into moving pictures of the heart. The Doppler probe records the motion of the blood through the heart.

An echocardiogram allows doctors to see the heart beating, and to see many of the structures of the heart. Occasionally, your lungs, ribs, or body tissue may prevent the sound waves and echoes from providing a clear picture of heart function. If so, the sonographer may inject a small amount of liquid (contrast) through an IV to better see the inside of the heart.

Very rarely, more invasive testing using special echocardiography probes may be necessary.