Here are the answers to some of the most common questions our patients ask about procedures or diagnostic techniques offered at Sitron-Hammel Radiology. If you require more detailed information, our links page will connect you to informative medical websites and organizations. Or, if you prefer, please feel free to call the office or use our online contact form.


What is Positron Emission Tomography?
Positron Emission Tomography, also called PET imaging or a PET scan, is a diagnostic examination that creates an image from tiny particles, called positrons, emitted from a mildly radioactive substance administered to the patient. PET scans of the human body are used to evaluate a variety of diseases.

What are some common uses of the procedure?
PET scans are used most often to detect cancer and to examine the effects of cancer therapy by characterizing biochemical changes in the cancer. These scans can be performed on the whole body. PET scans of the heart can be used to determine blood flow to the heart muscle and help evaluate signs of coronary artery disease. PET scans of the heart can also be used to determine if areas of the heart that show decreased function are alive rather than scarred as a result of a prior heart attack, called a myocardial infarction. PET scans of the brain are used to screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease or memory disorders of an undetermined cause, suspected or proven brain tumors, or seizure disorders that are not responsive to medical therapy and are therefore candidates for surgery.

How should I prepare for the procedure?
PET is usually done on an outpatient basis. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your examination. You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. You should not eat for four hours before the scan. You will be encouraged to drink water. Your doctor will instruct you regarding the use of medications before the test. Note: Diabetic patients should ask for any specific diet guidelines to control glucose levels during the day of the test.

What does the equipment look like?
You will be taken to an examination room that houses the PET scanner, which has a hole in the middle and looks like a large doughnut. Within this machine are multiple rings of detectors that record the emission of energy from the radioactive substance in your body and permit an image of your body to be obtained. While lying on a cushioned examination table, you will be moved into the hole of the machine. The images are displayed on the monitor of a nearby computer, which is similar in appearance to the personal computer you may have in your home.

How is the procedure performed?
Before the examination begins, a radioactive substance is attached to a natural body compound, most commonly glucose. Once this substance is administered to the patient, the radioactivity localizes in the appropriate areas of the body and is detected by the PET scanner.A technologist will take you into a special injection room, where the radioactive substance is administered as an intravenous injection. It takes about 30 minutes for the substance to travel through your body and accumulate in the tissue under study. During this time, you will be asked to rest quietly and avoid significant movement or talking, which may alter the localization of the administered substance. The scan itself will take about 30 minutes. Different colors or degrees of brightness on a PET image represent different levels of tissue or organ function. For example, because healthy tissue uses glucose for energy, it accumulates some of the tagged glucose, which will show up on the PET images. However, cancerous tissue, which uses more glucose than normal tissue, will accumulate more of the substance and appear brighter than normal tissue on the PET images.

What will I experience during the procedure?
The administration of the radioactive substance will be given by intravenous injection. You will then be made as comfortable as possible before you are positioned in the PET scanner for the test. You will be asked to remain still for the duration of the examination. You will not feel anything related to the radioactivity of the substance in your body. Usually, there are no restrictions on daily routine after the test, although you should drink plenty of fluids to flush the radioactive substance from your body.

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?
Patients undergo PET because their referring physician has recommended it. A radiologist who has specialized training in PET will interpret the images and forward a report to your referring physician. It usually takes one to three days to interpret, report and deliver the results. In order to facilitate interpretation, you may be asked to bring any previous radiologic images with you, such as recent CT (CAT) scans or MRI images.

What are the benefits vs. risks?
• Because PET allows study of body function, it can help physicians detect alterations in biochemical processes that suggest disease before changes in anatomy are apparent with other imaging tests, such as CT or MRI.
• Because the radioactivity is very short-lived, your radiation exposure is low. The substance amount is so small that it does not affect the normal processes of the body.
• The radioactive substance may expose radiation to the fetus in patients who are pregnant or the infants of women who are breast-feeding. The risk to the fetus or infant should be considered in relation to the potential information gain from the result of the PET examination. If you are pregnant, you should inform the PET imaging staff before the examination is performed.

What are the limitations of Positron Emission Tomography?
PET can give false results if a patient's chemical balances are not normal. Specifically, test results of diabetic patients or patients who have eaten within a few hours prior to the examination can be adversely affected because of blood sugar or blood insulin levels. Also, because the radioactive substance decays quickly and is effective for a short period of time, it must be produced in a laboratory near the PET scanner. It is important to be on time for the appointment and to receive the radioactive substance at the scheduled time. PET must be done by a radiologist who has specialized in nuclear medicine and has substantial experience with PET.

What is PET/CT Fusion Imaging?
PET/CT Fusion imaging combines the information obtained by the two distinct technologies to create a more powerful diagnostic tool. Computerized Tomography (CT) scans are excellent at depicting anatomy, while Positron Emission Tomography (PET) provides superior information about metabolic function. Working in tandem, they make it possible for the physician to study an organ’s structure and function together, which generates more meaningful information for diagnosis.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

What is MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce a highly accurate view of the inside of any portion of your body. With computer guidance, an MRI creates images of both bone and soft tissue from many different angles. These multiple views help our doctors diagnose a wide range of conditions more accurately than ever before. An MRI is a painless and extremely safe procedure because no radiation is used.

What are the advantages of MRI?
The more sophisticated images provided by an MRI make it possible for doctors to detect disease or injury at an earlier stage, which can increase the effectiveness of treatment. What’s more, the procedure is painless, accurate and quick, and the patient isn’t exposed to X-rays or radioactive substances. In fact, MRIs have been in use for more than 25 years, and there are no known side effects.

When scheduling an appointment, are there certain conditions I should let you know about?
Please tell us about any of the following when you make the appointment, and repeat the information to the technician during preparation for the procedure:
• You have a pacemaker.
• You are pregnant, or suspect that you may be.
• You have aneurysm clips.
• You have had heart or brain surgery.
• You have any metal fragments in your eyes.
• You have shrapnel in your body.
• You suffer from claustrophobia.
• You weigh 300 lbs. or more.

How do I prepare for the exam?
You can continue your daily activities, eat light meals, and take any prescribed medications. Avoid clothing with metal buckles, buttons, or zippers, if possible, and don’t apply eye makeup or hair spray. You should also remember to bring your insurance information and any previous imaging studies of the area to be examined.

What will the exam be like?
The MRI technologist performing your examination will escort you to the examination room. All Sitron-Hammel technologists work under close supervision of a radiologist and their extensive education and training ensure the most accurate results from your examinations.You will be positioned on the imaging table or gantry. To prevent blurred and unusable scans you must remain as motionless as possible. The technologist will slide the examination table into the air-conditioned MRI tube or unit. You will always be fully visible and able to communicate with your technologist through two-way microphones. While you are being scanned you will feel absolutely no effects from the MRI, although you will hear the low hum of the unit in operation.

Depending on the reason you are having an MRI, you might be given a substance called gadolinium. It is a natural substance that acts as a contrast medium to enhance the image of blood vessels or tumors, and is then quickly eliminated from the system.

How long will the exam take?
The exam can last between 30 to 60 minutes, and can vary depending on the nature of the study and other factors.

What do I do after the exam?
Whatever you like. There are no restrictions on normal activities following an MRI.

When will I know the results?
Usually within 24 hours your films will be analyzed by a radiologist and the findings reported to the referring physician. He or she will discuss the results with you.

CT Imaging

What is a CT Scan?
CT or Computerized Tomography is essentially a computer-enhanced x-ray that is able to provide clearer images of both bone and soft tissue. Standard x-rays can be ineffective at times, because denser tissues can prevent clear imaging of areas behind them. In a CT scan, a computer assembles multiple images into three-dimensional sections or “slices.” This provides the physician with an unobstructed view of the entire area being examined.

What will the exam be like?
Our technologists have completed a rigorous course of education and training, and they work under close supervision of our radiologists to assure the most accurate results from your examination.Before the exam begins, the technologist — a highly-trained healthcare professional who works closely with our radiologists — will take you through the procedure step by step. He or she will answer any questions or concerns you may have to ensure a productive examination that is as stress-free as possible.When the technologist positions you on the imaging table you will be asked to remain perfectly still because, just like a shaking hand holding a camera, any movement might cause the image to be blurred and necessitate repeated scans. You will be moved into the small, air-conditioned scanning chamber, where you will be in full view of the technologist, who can communicate with you through a two-way microphone. The imaging process itself is quite brief, during which you will hear the hum of the scanner and feel slight movement of the table as it positions itself for the next scan.

What is a contrast media?
A contrast medium is a harmless substance given by mouth or injection that serves to outline vessels and organs to allow better, clearer images. You may feel a slight warm sensation when the dye moves through your body, but no discomfort. The medium passes harmlessly through your system and, depending on the examination area and contrast used, is eliminated within hours or days.

How long will the exam take?
Sitron-Hammel uses an advanced, multi-slice CT scanner, which allows for a shorter exam time than older CT systems. Generally, the exam takes about 5 to 15 minutes, including prep time. Your actual x-ray exposure time is very brief and depends on the specific imaging required.

When will I know the results?
Your radiologist will study the results and consult with your referring doctor. He or she will contact you to discuss the exam findings with you.


What is ultrasound?
Ultrasonography is a safe, painless procedure that uses sound waves to create very precise images of soft tissue, such as the heart, blood vessels, uterus, bladder and other organs. It also allows for real-time examination of internal motion such as heart beat and blood flow. Ultrasound examinations can detect damaged tissues and abnormal growths, as well as identify changing conditions including the development of a fetus within the womb.

What will the exam be like?
The sonographer, a specially trained health care professional who works closely with our radiologists, will help you get comfortable on the exam table, and will apply an oil or transmission gel to the part of your body being examined. A hand-held transducer will be moved slowly over the body part, emitting inaudible sound waves which reflect back from soft tissue and are sent to a computer. The computer processes the data to produce an ultrasound image which appears on a monitor similar to a TV screen and is recorded on paper, film or digital media for later study.It is important that you remain still and relaxed during the procedure. You won't feel anything but slight pressure as the transducer is moved over your body.

How long will the exam take?
Depending on the nature of the study, the exam can take from 15 to 60 minutes. You may be asked to drink water to enhance the quality of the picture (sound travels better through water) and this could lengthen the time of the exam.

How will I learn the results?
Your referring physician or health care provider will receive the results from us, and he or she will discuss them with you.


What is a mammogram?
Mammography is X-ray imaging of your breasts designed to detect tumors or other abnormalities. Mammography can be used either for screening or for diagnostic purposes in evaluating a breast lump.

What are the advantages of a digital mammogram over traditional film mammography?
Just like a digital camera, with digital mammography there is no waiting for pictures to be developed. What’s more, once the pictures or images have been taken, they can be electronically manipulated. That means that the physician can zoom in, magnify and optimize different parts of the breast tissue without having to take additional images. The result is less anxiety and less discomfort for the patient, because the procedure is often faster than traditional mammography. And, most important, recent studies have shown that digital mammography is significantly better in screening women under 50, women of any age with very dense breast tissue and pre- or peri-menopausal women of any age.

What is Computer-Aided Detection?
Computer-Aided Detection (CAD) digitally evaluates each view of the digital mammogram, scanning each for areas that may be troublesome and should receive closer attention. As a result, studies have shown that CAD detects early breast cancers 10 to 20% more often than unaided methods.

Why should I have a mammogram?
A mammogram is an important adjunct to the clinical breast exam performed by your health care provider, because it can detect breast tumors that cannot be felt. Early detection is the key to successful treatment of breast cancer.

What happens during the procedure?
In a private room, you will undress from the waist up and be given a gown with an opening in the front. A technician trained in mammography will help you carefully position your breasts on top of a compression plate. To reduce the amount of radiation required, a compression plate will be lowered from the top, compressing your breast against the x-ray cassette. Some women experience discomfort from the compression of the breast, but maximum compression is important to ensure the most accurate results. To lessen discomfort, avoid caffeinated products for two weeks prior to your appointment.

How long does the procedure take?
The mammogram takes about 15-20 minutes, including your time to undress. Once the procedure is complete you may dress and resume your normal activities.

What steps should I take before the procedure?
Schedule the test for shortly after the end of your period. Wear two-piece clothing to avoid the need for complete undressing. Don’t wear jewelry, and don’t apply powder, deodorant or lotion to your upper body, as particles may shed onto compression plates and allow misleading results.

How will I get my results?
Your referring physician or health care provider will receive the results from us, and he or she will discuss them with you.

DEXA Bone Densitometry

What is a DEXA bone densitometry test?
DEXA bone densitometry is a quick, painless procedure for measuring bone loss due to osteoporosis. To detect osteoporosis accurately, doctors use an enhanced form of x-ray technology called Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. DEXA bone densitometry is the established standard for measuring bone mineral density. Most often the test focuses on the lower spine and hips.

When should women have a bone densitometry test?
Around menopause, estrogen production slows down, making you more prone to loss of bone density. You should have a test at that time because it is important to have a baseline density so we can compare the results with future measurements to determine your rate of bone decay, if any.

How do I prepare for the test?
There is no preparation required for this test. Wear comfortable clothing without zippers or metal.

Is it safe?
Using less radiation than a standard chest x-ray, DEXA is extremely safe and effective.

What happens during the procedure?
DEXA is one of the simplest imaging procedures available. Generally you can remain dressed if you avoid clothing with metal, such as zippers. You simply lie on a padded table while the imager passes over you.

How long does the procedure take?
DEXA takes about 15 to 20 minutes. There is no preparation required, nor any medication or injections involved.

Why is this test important?
Loss of bone density (osteoporosis) is a very real concern of post-menopausal women. The lower your bone density, the higher your risk for a painful, debilitating fracture. Regular testing lets your physician keep track of your bone density and work with you to lower your risks through preventive therapies.

Nuclear Medicine

What is nuclear medicine?
Nuclear medicine uses radioactive tracers in small doses to help diagnose and treat disease. Unlike x-rays, ultrasound and other diagnostic procedures that focus on the structural appearance of organs, tissues or bone, nuclear medicine determines the cause of a problem by analyzing the function of these structures.

Are nuclear medicine procedures safe?
Because the radioactive trace materials used contain no more radiation than a standard chest X-ray, nuclear medicine is considered quite safe.

Does the tracer cause side effects?
Rarely, there are some side effects, or adverse reactions, to tracer materials. Be sure to tell the technologist if you experience any abnormal symptoms following the tracer injection.

How long does the procedure take?
Nuclear medicine tests are performed in three phases; the administration of the tracer, taking the images and the analysis of the images. The time needed to allow absorption of the trace material can range from a few hours to a few days, depending on the type of test. Likewise, the time required for the imaging itself will vary. When you make the appointment, ask about the time required for your specific test.

Can I resume my daily activities after the test?
Generally, you can resume activities immediately. If you had temporarily discontinued any medications prior to your test, be sure to ask your doctor when you may resume.

General Radiology

What is general radiology?
An X-ray is a painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. A bone X-ray makes images of any bone in the body, including the hand, wrist, arm, foot, ankle, knee, leg or spine.

How should I prepare?
Most bone X-rays require no special preparation. You may be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and wear a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothes that might interfere with the X-ray images.

What is a GI series exam?
A GI series is an X-ray exam of the esophogus and stomach and sometimes the small intestine. In order to see the intestinal tract on X-ray, you will be asked to drink a mildly flavored barium liquid.

What should I do to prepare for a GI series exam?
It's important that you do not eat or drink anything after 10 PM the night before your exam.

What is a fluoroscopy?
A fluoroscopy is an X-Ray procedure that uses a computer monitor rather than traditional plates and film. Live, moving images are viewed on screen to enable a physician or technician to visualize the organs in motion. Fluoroscopy is also used to diagnose digestive disorders, allowing the doctor to observe the passage of matter through the system. This procedure is also known as a GI (gastrointestinal) Series. For an Upper GI Series, barium is ingested to help visualize ulcers, tumors, hiatal hernias, scarring, blockages, and other abnormalities of stomach and esophagus. For a Lower GI Series (also known as a barium enema) barium is introduced directly into the colon to help identify abnormal growths, ulcers, polyps, diverticuli, and colon cancer in the large intestine.

What is a hysterosalpingography (HSG)?
A hysterosalpingography, or HSG, is an X-ray procedure that focuses on the female reproductive system. During an HSG, a contrast medium is injected into the uterus and fallopian tubes, allowing easier identification of structural problems that may be the root cause of infertility, miscarriages or excessively painful menstruation.

CT Angiography

What is CT Angiography?
Computerized Tomography Angiography (CT Angiography or CTA) is a specialized form of CT scan that is designed to provide information on blood vessel performance without the need for an invasive procedure or hospital stay. After the patient is given a contrast medium that makes the blood vessels stand out, the CT scanner takes thousands of x-ray images of the selected area in only a few short minutes. These images are assembled by computer into a three-dimensional picture that our radiologists and your physician can examine and interpret. of the area being studied.

CTA is commonly used to screen patients for arterial disease, aneurysms, thrombosis and other malformations of the blood vessels. It is also used to detect narrowing or obstruction of arteries in the kidneys, brain and other organs, and to map the structure of blood vessels that feed tumors.

What happens during the procedure?
Prior to the start of your CTA exam the technologist will explain the procedure to you. This is done for two reasons: to put your mind at ease and to ask for your cooperation. Just follow his or her instructions for a relaxed examination that achieves the desired results.

First, you will be set up with an IV to introduce a dose of contrast material to help produce a clear image of your blood vessels. The technologist will position you on the imaging table. It’s important that you remain still, because even the slightest movement during the exam can blur the image and result in the need for repeated scans.

The part of your body to be examined will be moved into the opening of the CT scanner, which is a small, air-conditioned chamber. The technologist will have you in full view at all times and you will be in constant communication via two-way microphones. During this brief time, you will hear the humming of the equipment as it produces the images. You may also feel slight movement of the table as it prepares for the next scan. Once the images have been recorded you are free to go.

Some patients may experience very brief, mild discomfort during insertion of the IV, but the CTA exam itself is completely painless.

What is a contrast media?
You may be given a contrast medium to highlight a particular part of your body. The contrast medium outlines less dense, hollow vessels and organs for visualizations. This medium is harmless and is eliminated within a few hours or days, depending on the area under examination and the type of contrast medium utilized. It is normal to feel a warm sensation as the dye makes its way through your body.

How long will the exam take?
Because Sitron-Hammel uses a multi-slice CT scanner — the newest and most advanced technology — your exam is considerably faster than conventional CT systems, usually taking only 10 to 25 minutes. This allows for preparation as well as time for the computer to generate the image. The actual time of x-ray exposure is minimal and can vary significantly depending on the nature of the study and other factors.

When will I know the results?
Your radiologist will study the results of your exam and discuss them with your referring doctor who will then consult with you.