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Saint Louis University School of Medicine
3635 Vista Blvd at Grand Blvd
Saint Louis, Missouri 63110-0250
Phone: 314-577-8025

Department of Radiology - Clinical Services

Diagnostic Imaging (X-Ray)

Radiography involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of radiation to produce an image of the internal organs. When x-rays penetrate the body, they are absorbed in varying amounts by different parts of the anatomy. Ribs, for example, will absorb much of the radiation and, therefore, appear white or light gray on the image. Lung tissue absorbs little radiation and appears dark on the image. The exposed film is either placed in a developing machine, producing images much like the negatives from a 35-mm camera, or are digitally stored on computer.

Computed Tomography (CT)

Computed tomography (CT) - sometimes called CAT scan - uses special x-ray equipment to obtain image data from different angles around the body, then uses computer processing of the information to show a cross-section of body tissues and organs. A CT scanner is used to aid physicians in diagnosing diseases by viewing internal abnormalities and assessing the extent of injury, or other abnormality.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging allows physicians to visualize internal structures within the body without the use of radiation. MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field rather than x-rays to provide remarkably clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. The technique has proven very valuable for the diagnosis of a broad range of conditions in all parts of the body, including breast diseases, heart disease, liver, pancreas and bile duct pathologies, kidney diseases, stroke and disorders of bones and joints. It requires specialized equipment and expertise and allows evaluation of some body structures that may not be as visible with other imaging methods.

Breast Imaging

Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system and high-contrast, high-resolution film for examination of the breasts. Mammography plays a central part in early detection of breast cancers because it can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. If a patient has a suspicious breast mass, a non-surgical biopsy can be performed. Using a stereotactic technique, radiologists can very accurately locate a suspicious lesion, then, through use of a biopsy needle, take a tiny section of tissue for examination and diagnosis, without surgery.

Ultrasound (US)

Ultrasound (US) imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, is a method of "seeing" inside the human body through the use of high-frequency sound waves. The sound waves are recorded and displayed as a real-time visual image. No ionizing radiation is involved in ultrasound imaging. US is a useful way of examining many of the body's internal organs, including the heart, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder. Because US images are captured in real-time, they can show movement of internal tissues and organs, and enable physicians to see blood flow and heart valve functions. This can help to diagnose a variety of heart conditions and to assess damage after a heart attack or other illness.

Interventional Radiology

Radiologists perform a number of minimally invasive procedures that provide patients with options to traditional surgical techniques for a variety of conditions. Tumor ablation is used to eliminate tumors in organs like the liver, kidneys, and lungs. Angioplasty is a way of opening a narrowed or closed blood vessel without having to do major surgery. Embolization, a fairly new treatment method, is a way of occluding (closing)-or at least drastically reducing-blood flow through one or more blood vessels that are associated with disease. Aneurysm and AVM embolization are techniques to treat vascular abnormalities of the brain and spine. A vascular access procedure is designed for patients who need intravenous (IV) access for a considerable time, longer than 10 days to two weeks. The transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) procedure is used for the treatment of abdominal fluid accumulation and life threatening bleeding into the bowel.

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a subspecialty within the field of radiology that uses very small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat disease and other abnormalities within the body. Nuclear medicine imaging procedures are noninvasive and usually painless medical tests that help physicians diagnose medical conditions. These imaging scans use radioactive materials called a radiopharmaceutical or radiotracer. Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam, the radiotracer is injected into a vein, swallowed by mouth or inhaled as a gas and eventually collects in the area of the body being examined, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays. This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera, a (positron emission tomography) PET scanner and/or probe. These devices work together with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed by your body and to produce special pictures offering details on both the structure and function of organs and other internal body parts. Nuclear medicine images can be superimposed with computed tomography to produce special views, a practice known as image fusion or co-registration. These views allow the information from two different studies to be correlated and interpreted on one image, leading to more precise information and accurate diagnoses. Nuclear medicine also offers therapeutic procedures that uses radioactive material to treat some benign or malignant conditions.

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