Imaging Definitions


Orthopedic doctors provide both surgical and nonsurgical treatments. Many orthopedic conditions, disorders, and injuries can be treated in one or more ways. Patients have many questions regarding imaging and treatments.

Why do I need different types of imaging? I already had an X-ray and may need an MRI or CT Scan?

Certain types of injuries require specific imaging to properly assess. We will often do an x-ray to examine the area then determine if we need additional imaging studies for more information. If the issue may require surgery, we need to have as much information prior to understanding the extent of the problem.

X-ray: An X-ray is a procedure performed that uses a safe form of radiation to provide a two-dimensional picture of your body to use as a screening tool to evaluate for causes of many common disorders, such as bone breaks, joint and spine injuries, or conditions, and arthritis or osteoporosis.

MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging, commonly referred to as an MRI, is an advanced technology that uses magnetic fields and radio waves (like microwaves and the AM and FM bands on your radio) to visualize the inner workings of the body. The pictures produced by MRI help the radiologist clearly and accurately detect and define the differences between healthy and diseased tissues, especially in the soft tissues. It can reveal many health problems at their earliest, most treatable stages.

CT Scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan, also known as CAT scan, produces images that are similar in detail and in quality to an MRI; however, the CT scan offers several advantages in the diagnosis and treatment of many musculoskeletal disorders due to its ability to capture a 360-degree picture of internal organs and the spine and vertebrae. CT scans provide cross-sectional views of the body and provide clearer imaging than an MRI with exceptional clarity and detail to give the doctor the best image for evaluation of bone anatomy and alignment.

What is a bone density scan and why do I need one?

A bone density test is used to diagnose osteoporosis, which is a disease that causes weakening of the bones that can ultimately result in fractures.

In the past, osteoporosis could only be detected after a person’s bone broke; however, by using a bone density test, it is possible to know one’s individual risk of breaking bones before a fracture. A bone density test uses X-rays to measure the amount of calcium and other bone mineral packed into the segment of bone. Common areas that are tested using a bone density scan include the spine, hip, and forearm.