Beth’s Everything Blog

Because I used to be the Chief Technologist of a large x-ray department in Kansas City, friends often  ask me questions about radiological diagnostic tests their doctors order. Today and in the weeks to come, I hope to answer  some of your questions and help you become a better patient/doctor partner.

An x-ray looks like this picture of Wilhelm Röntgen‘s first “medical” X-ray of his wife’s hand, taken on 22 December 1895. wilhelm-roentgen-s_~1156398[1]

Tomography is imagery of selected thin slices of a particular part of your body. Take your kidney, for example. The images may not look like what you commonly think of as kidney shaped but if you visualize a spiral sliced ham for example, you’ll get the idea.

A Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT), or MRI machine can take picture slices of your inner workings, sometimes from front to back and sometimes up and down. Those images increase the doctor’s ability to visualize things not possible with regular x-rays.   .

One note of caution before I proceed.  The images are only as good as the doctor who interprets them.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

MRI machines use powerful magnetic and radio waves to produce detailed images without the use of x-ray.

We usually think of MRIs as particularly helpful in the study of soft tissues such as the brain and the spinal cord,  organs in the chest or abdomen and joints of the body.

There are now MRI machines capable of defining various stroke conditions as well as real time MRIs for the heart.

Remember: MRI machines work using magnets. Remind your doctor if you have a pace maker, a cochlear implant, a defibrillator or metal clips especially in the eye.

Otherwise, there are no known risks. For more information, check out

Which to use: open or closed?  In the closed MRI, you feel like you are in a tunnel but try to close your eyes and listen to the pleasant music. If you are seriously claustrophobic, ask your doctor to prescribe a mild sedative. As long as you are going to the trouble and expense of having an MRI, you might as well get the best imaging possible. So far, closed is best. (You can do it)

This equipment is very expensive. Every day, manufacturers are updating and improving the diagnostic imaging capabilities.  In order to lower costs, I think that facilities should share their newest technological MRI acquisitions.

Finally, you have the right and the obligation to question the need for exams ordered by your physician.  If you have concerns, get a second opinion. Your doctor won’t have his/her feelings hurt. Rather, they will respect your right to be your own advocate.


Fall Ash Tree-1

The Black Ash tree we planted in our back yard last fall.

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