Medical Imaging That Helps Assess Heart Health


Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world. Contributing factors include a poor diet, lack of exercise, and genetics. Most doctors tell patients that the way to better cardiac health is through medically proven methods of eating better, regular exercise and taking precautions if your family has a history of heart disease.

To detect and combat heart disease, scientists have developed a variety of medical technologies. Medical imaging is a common method for doctors to determine the probability of a patient developing a heart condition. Below is a look at the medical imaging modalities physicians use to assess cardiac health.

CT and CAT Scans for Calcium Scoring

One frequently used medical imaging exam for determining the condition of the heart is through a CT or CAT scan. CT scans use X-rays and computer equipment to produce cross-sectional images of the body, including several types of tissues such as muscles. At Doctors Imaging, we calibrate CT equipment to use the lowest amounts of radiation required for each exam.

A Calcium Scoring screening uses produces imaging of the coronary arteries to determine if they are blocked or narrowed by the buildup of plaque – an indicator for atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD). The information obtained can help evaluate whether you are at increased risk for heart attack.

A CT scan for coronary calcium is a non-invasive way of obtaining information about the presence, location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle.

Because calcium is a marker of CAD, the amount of calcium detected on a cardiac CT scan is a helpful prognostic tool. The findings on cardiac CT are expressed as a calcium score. Another name for this test is coronary artery calcium scoring.

A positive test means that CAD is present, regardless of whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms. The amount of calcification—expressed as the calcium score—may help to predict the likelihood of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in the coming years and helps your doctor decide whether you need preventive medicine or adopt diet and exercise changes to lower your risks. The extent of CAD is graded according to your calcium score:

Calcium Score Presence of CAD
0 No evidence of CAD
1-10 Minimal evidence of CAD
11-100 Mild evidence of CAD
101-400 Moderate evidence of CAD
Over 400 Extensive evidence of CAD

Carotid Ultrasounds Can Detect Vascular Problems

If your doctor is concerned about the possibility of a vascular problem leading to heart disease, he or she may order a carotid ultrasound exam. The body has two carotid arteries and if either one becomes compromised, you could go into cardiac arrest or stroke. Ifyou’re worried about your cardiac condition, an ultrasound exam is a safe and effective form of medical imaging. Ultrasound exams simply use sound waves and computer technology to create their images. This allows patients and doctors to see the flow of blood throughout the body in real-time, making it easier to determine the causes of problems and choose treatments.

MRIs Examine Coronary Pathways

MRIs provide another method that doctors sometimes use to test the heart and blood flow through the coronary pathways. MRIs use strong magnetic and radio waves to create images of the internal body.

All these tests are important for gauging your cardiac health. All patients and their symptoms are different. Your doctor will recommend the exam that is right for your needs.

Learn More About Medical Imaging

CT Scan for Calcium Scoring by RadiologyInfo.org

4 Things Your Radiologist Wants You to Know

1. You Cannot Get Cancer from Any Imaging Procedure

Any radiologist could tell you this is not an uncommon concern. It would not seem a smart idea for us to get into a field that promoted or produced cancer in our patients, would it? We would be putting ourselves out of business. There are some sensational articles that claim that medical imaging procedures like CTs and PET-CT scans can lead to cancer but these have never been validated and medical imaging is the best method for diagnosis without incisions or exploratory surgery. In fact, medical imaging is how cancer is uncovered so that it can be treated.

2. Being Informed is the Best Way to Feel Comfortable

We understand that having a medical imaging procedure performed can be a nervous experience, especially if you have never had it done before. However, any radiologist would tell you that the more questions you ask and information you search for, the more you will see that there is nothing to be afraid of. But be sure of where you are getting that research from, there is a lot of misinformation in this field.

3. The Quality of Your Images Depends on the Equipment Used

With every procedure, the goal is to look inside the body’s structures and functions and see if there is anything concerning. With every kind of medical imaging procedure, there are different kinds of equipment and hence, qualities of images. For example, an MRI’s quality of images can differ between open and standard MRI machines. There are different slice capabilities in CT equipment that can effect the quality of the images and interpretations. Whenever you are having a medical imaging procedure, see if you can find out about the equipment that will be used. The best equipment means the best images which means the most accurate diagnosis.

4. The Field of Radiology is Always Changing

Like most medical fields, the field of radiology is an ever-changing one. There are always new advances, discoveries and innovations and we as radiologists have to stay updated. What is the standard today might be totally obsolete by tomorrow. But because of the changing nature of this field, that means constant improvement which we consider a benefit for our patients. At Doctors Imaging in Metairie, our radiologists are committed to bringing the state of the art equipment and the latest innovations in our field like open MRIs, digital X-rays, and our new Concussion Imaging Program that uses qDTI, a very advanced MRI technique.

Have more questions about radiology or having your medical imaging procedure? You can call our offices at 504-833-8111 or use our Request an Appointment page to schedule a consultation.

Open MRIs vs. Closed MRIs – Explaining MRI Equipment

MRIs are one of the best ways for doctors and patients to determine the condition of the internal body. By using a strong magnetic field and radio waves combined with computer technology, radiologists use MRI machines to take images of the body without making any type of invasive procedure.

MRIs can be used on a number of different body parts and conditions but it is most often used to diagnosis musculoskeletal conditions, cancer, or vascular abnormalities. For example, if you are having constant back pain, your doctor may want to schedule a spinal MRI to make sure you don’t have a bulging or herniated disc. Or if an athlete tears the fragile ligament or cartilage in their knee (ACL injuries are one of the most reported sports injuries) an MRI will likely have to be performed in order to determine whether surgery is necessary.

You may be wondering how a magnetic machine can take pictures of your internal organs but it is really quite easy to understand. Your body is composed of molecules and atoms that attract and react to magnetic forces. Once inside of the MRI chamber, your body will be in a magnetic field. Once your body is exposed to that magnetic field, the different kinds of atoms are rearranged through the radio signals of the MRI machine. They allow the computer mechanisms to form an accurate picture of the internal organs. This way if a certain part of the body is diseased, injured or enlarged, the atoms will transmit their abnormality through radio signals and once the image is formed, doctors can see that something is incorrect and can further investigate.

The aforementioned process occurs in any MRI procedure regardless of the kind of MRI equipment being used. The traditional forms of MRIs are high fiels and closed, meaning that circular magnetic mechanism makes a complete circle. This is the best way to get accurate and diagnostic pictures. However, some patients complain about a feeling of claustrophobia or just being uncomfortable inside the MRI chamber. So in 1996, an open MRI was invented. An open MRI allows for patients to feel lees confined. Because of its design, the open MRI has an incomplete magnetic circle chamber but it also allows for patients to feel more relaxed. The major disadvantage to having an open MRI is that the quality of your images will not be as good as those taken in a regular high field MRI. Because the magnet cannot make a full revolution, the radio signals can become slightly distorted. You will still have a fully recognizable internal image, it just may not be to the quality that a high field MRI would give you. At Doctors Imaging we offer both types of MRI.

If you need to have an MRI performed, speak to your doctor about the options and types of procedure you can have performed. If you are too nervous about the results of the exam or worried about a feeling of claustrophobia, your doctor may be able to prescribe a light sedative or have calming music played during your procedure. Since MRIs are a form of medical imaging, patient movement can be a time-consuming problem. When patients during move during their procedure, the images can be blurry or incomplete. This means that the process has to begin again, costing more time. At Doctors Imaging in Metairie, we aim to make our patients feel as comfortable and welcome about their procedures as well as any questions they may have. We offer the use of a 3T MRI or open MRI machine, the strongest available machines for routine imaging procedures in the efforts to give our patients the best imaging. If you have scheduled your appointment and have more questions about our MRI equipment, we want our patients to know that they can call anytime and speak to a representative about their procedures, what should be done before, costs and results.

You can get in touch with our specialists by calling 504-883-8111 or through this form.

What are Lymph Nodes, and Why Are Mine Swollen?

If you’ve ever been to the doctor with cold-like symptoms, including sore throat, runny nose, congestion or body aches, chances are the doctor will take his or her gloved hands and feel around below your jawbone. If you’re wondering what they’re checking — they’re feeling for your lymph nodes.

Lymph Nodes are oval shaped organs ranging in size from extremely tiny to about the size of a bean. They’re a vital part of your lymphatic system and work in conjunction with your immune system to rid your body of infections. Whereas the kidney and liver filter toxins out of the body, lymph nodes in the lymphatic system take care of the biological threats. Whenever you have an infection, the lymphatic system transfers invading bodies to the different lymph nodes via a white fluid called lymph. There, specialized white blood cells called lymphocytes destroy the waste materials and invading infections.

When these infections are being fought off, the lymph nodes may swell up. Most cannot be felt, but depending on the location of the infection, doctors may try to detect swelling in the neck, armpit, groin, and above the collarbone.

For most cases, as in the doctor feeling below your jaw, swollen lymph nodes are just symptoms of a local infection, such as a cold or sore throat. Swelling in the lymph nodes is the body’s natural response to an infection. There are certain cases, however, where swollen lymph nodes can be an indication to a more serious problem.

Aside from the more common causes of swollen lymph nodes, such as viral and bacterial infections, swelling can also be caused by side effects of some medications and can be signs of more life threatening illnesses such as certain cancers, AIDS, and infectious diseases.

If more serious illnesses are suspected, your doctor may direct you to have an MRI or PET-CT Scan taken of the area in which the swollen node is located or other areas where there are lymph nodes that can’t be felt. Sometimes, a biopsy of the node and surrounding tissues may be in order. If you’re in the New Orleans or Metairie area, call 504-883-8111 or use our online form to schedule your appointment.

In most cases though, swollen lymph nodes can be attributed to the common cold, flu, or other common infections. If your lymph nodes are swollen for more than a month without any other symptoms, however, a more detailed look into them may be needed.

MRIs and Migraines: All You Need to Know

Headaches can happen to any person at any age for a number of reasons: stress, hunger, depression, or lack of sleep, just to name a few. While headaches may be irritating and bothersome, for some, a simple headache can transform into something much more painful. A migraine is a more debilitating form of head pain. Migraines are a form of severe headache that can present quickly and stay active for an unpredictable amount of time.

Symptoms of migraines can vary among patients, but the most common complaints include a throbbing or pulsing pain, typically localized to one side of the brain. Other symptoms are nausea, vomiting, and a strong sensitivity to light and sound. Some migraine sufferers also experience what is known as “auras.” Auras are sensory hallucinations such as zig-zags, flashing lights, or dark spots. Auras can also present as a strange taste in the mouth, a noticeable smell, or ringing in the ears. These symptoms can range in severity so patients have very little stability or consistency in the ability to deal with the onset of a migraine.

There are many different kinds of migraines, all with varying descriptions and effects. Women are also three times more likely than men to suffer from migraine headaches. Because of the strong sensory symptoms of migraines and their specific location of pain, many specialists theorize that migraines are a disorder found in the central nervous system. There is no definitive cause of migraines but there are a number of theories such as low serotonin levels, magnesium deficiency, nitric oxide release causing the blood vessels to swell, fluctuating hormones and inflammation of the facial nerves.

There are a number of medications and therapies available to those that suffer from migraine headaches, but without knowing the actual cause, many patients must bear with the painful symptoms. If you suffer from severe migraines that interfere with your work, daily activities and relationships, then you should consider having a medical imaging procedure to see if there is any help that can be provided.

MRIs would be the most beneficial medical imaging procedure to have performed if you suffer from frequent and unrelenting migraine headaches. MRIs or magnetic resonance imaging is a procedure that uses magnetized equipment and computer technology to produce detailed images of the body’s internal structures. MRIs are most sensitive to the brain’s functions and the best technique to view the blood vessels of the face and brain because they can view through structures like organs and bone. For deeper examination of the blood vessels, you could speak to your doctor about ordering a MR angiography at the same time. MRIs are painless and non-invasive, so if you are experiencing a migraine attack, the procedure should not irritate you.

If you suffer from the pain and incapacitation of migraine headaches, speak to your physician about your options. An MRI could be a beneficial procedure to identify a possible cause of your migraines and hopefully provide a road to ease and comfort.

Getting tested is the only way to know for sure. If you’re looking for an MRI Exam in Metairie, Louisiana, then go with the experts at Doctors Imaging. You can book an appointment online, or via phone by calling 504-883-8111.

How Can MRI Scans help prevent cancer?

Medical technology has come incredibly far in the last century. One of the best inventions made in the medical field is the MRI machine. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging and is one of the best diagnostic tools your doctor can use to determine treatment options. MRIs are used for a variety of reasons but how can they be beneficial for those trying to prevent or treat cancer?

MRI machines use magnetic fields and radio frequencies to capture images of the internal structures of the body. Because they do not use radiation, it is safe to use on any part of the body as well as children. If you want to know if you have a possibility of cancer or a tumor present, your doctor will likely order this imaging test for you. The most frequent use of MRI today is the evaluation of spine and joint problems.

MRIs are extremely beneficial for seeing into the various tissues such as heart, brain and abdomen and will be used to highlight the possibility of cancer. You will be asked to lie down on the machine’s table and then you will be slowly moved into the magnetic chamber. The test can take some time but most importantly, you must remain still so that the doctor can obtain the highest quality images.

While MRIs won’t themselves prevent cancer from forming, they can produce the best quality images for your doctor to decide if you are high-risk for cancer or if there is already a tumor forming. For some MRI exams, the doctor may tell you that contrast material needs to be administered. This will either be done through an IV or by drinking the contrast material. Contrast material is sometimes a necessary instrument for doctors to get better detail from your MRI results. Contrast material can highlight a tumor or abnormality that may have been hidden or too small to see in prior tests. If you have problems with kidney function be sure to let your doctor know prior to taking contrast fluid. If your kidneys cannot filter out the contrast material, there may be complications.

Unfortunately, medical technology has only found a handful of ways to prevent a handful of cancers, but having the availability of medical imaging procedures like MRIs performed easily can make it so that you know immediately if there something dangerous or suspicious.

If you have questions or concerns or want to set up an MRI appointment in the Metairie, Louisiana area, just give us a call at 504-883-8111, or schedule your MRI online.