Whether the types of injuries you have sustained in an auto accident are internal or external, you may need to take one or more diagnostic tests to determine your exact condition. Here are some of the common medical tests your doctor may ask you to take in order to diagnose your condition.
X-rays are the radiation tests we are all familiar with. You have probably taken one at the dentist office if you had your wisdom teeth removed. They show the skeletal structure and bones in your body. So if you have suffered broken or cracked bones or suffered soft tissue injuries, x-rays may help diagnose those injuries.
A CT scan, sometimes called a CAT scan, is short for Computed Tomography. A CT scan uses multiple x-rays taken around the same point to build a better picture than one x-ray can provide alone, using a computer to combine them. A CT scan is likely to be ordered if the doctors believe you have an injury to your internal organs of your torso or abdomen, or multiple fractures to a hand or foot.
MRI is short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. If you get an MRI, the doctors will ask you to lie down in a large tube that uses harmless magnetic radiation to look at soft tissues of the body. Sometimes, they will also ask you to drink or have an injection of a substance that makes those tissues easier to see. If your doctor suspects an injury to your brain or spinal cord, you might be asked to do this test. Because this technology uses magnets, you cannot use it if you have a pacemaker or other metal implanted in your body.
A PET scan is often used with a CT scan. In a PET scan, the patient is injected with a harmless substance that can be seen by the scanner using radioactivity. Unlike CT scans, PET scans can show your body’s metabolic activity rather than just structure of the body. The images they produce are also three-dimensional.
An ultrasound test uses high-frequency sound waves that bounce off internal structures of the body to build an image. The image it builds is not as detailed as images from other methods, but because it does not use radiation, it may be the best choice for people who certain conditions. It is also less expensive than an MRI. Doctors use it to look at internal organs, connective tissue, bones, blood vessels and eyes.
If your doctors believe you have a nerve injury, you may take a nerve conduction study, an electrical test that can detect problems with your nerves. In this test, one electrode is placed over the nerve being tested, while another is placed in a “downstream” area of the nervous system. The speed it takes for the electricity to travel between them determines whether there is nerve damage.
An electromyography (EMG) shows muscles’ activity by measuring the electrical current they produce when they are in motion. This might be used for people with nerve damage, muscle weakness or the conditions that might cause them. In an EMG, doctors either, insert a thin needle into the muscle being tested or place an electrode over the area, then measure the electrical impulse of the muscle.
An endoscopy uses a flexible tube with a light and a camera to look inside natural openings in your body, such as the throat. This is most commonly associated with tests on the stomach or colon, but can be used in area with a natural opening.