If you’re dealing with a health problem and your doctor calls for “diagnostic imaging,” you may wonder, “what is diagnostic imaging used for.” Diagnostic imaging, also called medical imaging or radiology, is a set of different tests that allow doctors to see structures inside your body. These tests play a central role in disease management, helping medical professionals detect, diagnose, and treat. Most imaging tests today are easy, noninvasive, and painless.

The most frequently ordered diagnostic imaging tests include:


X-ray scans use high-energy electromagnetic waves (x-rays) and photographic film sensitive to x-rays to produce pictures of tissues and structures inside the body. X-rays can pass through all the body’s soft tissues, including muscles and organs. Denser body parts, like bones and tumors, block the x-rays and appear white on the film. This contrast makes x-rays a handy tool to monitor bone mass. X-rays can help diagnose fractures, dental decay, arthritis, osteoporosis, lung infections, swallowed objects, and even bone or lung cancer.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI uses magnetic energy and radio waves to generate detailed images of the soft organs and tissues in the body. MRIs can be used to diagnose a variety of medical conditions, depending on the part of the body being scanned. For example, an MRI of the brain or spinal cord can be used to diagnose aneurysms, multiple sclerosis, stroke, or brain injury from trauma. On the other hand, an MRI of the heart and its surrounding blood vessels lets doctors examine structural problems in the heart’s chambers, movement of the heart’s walls, and inflammation or blockages.

Computed Tomography (CT) or Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT)

A CT scan is a much more detailed and advanced x-ray scan. It layers many x-ray images taken from different angles around your body to get an accurate 3-D assessment of the internal structures. Your family doctor may order a CT scan to detect internal injuries or diagnose muscle or bone disorders. CT scans can also pinpoint the location of tumors, nodules, blood clots, or infections. CT scans guide surgeries, biopsies, and radiation therapies if doctors plan further treatment.


While ultrasounds are most commonly ordered during pregnancy, they can also help diagnose complex medical conditions. Diagnostic ultrasound, or sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to produce real-time images of structures inside the body. In addition to monitoring a developing baby’s growth during pregnancy, ultrasound can also:

  • Diagnose gallbladder disease
  • Examine the thyroid gland
  • Assess joint inflammation
  • Inspect a breast lump
  • Detect genital and prostate problems

How Diagnostic Images Aid Treatment

Physicians use medical imaging technology to produce accurate pictures of the activities and structures inside your body. The analysis and interpretation of this information help identify the most effective treatment plan for your condition. The three major reasons for ordering diagnostic imaging are:

  • Diagnosing the cause(s) of your symptoms
  • Monitoring how well your body responds to a treatment
  • Screening for different illnesses

Like most diagnostic imaging procedures, each of the techniques mentioned above is noninvasive. These are routine tests and require little to no prior preparation. You will only need to keep still for a few minutes for the test to complete successfully. Some people may experience mild discomfort when getting into the position necessary for the scan. 

Spring Mountain Medical offers cutting-edge imaging services perfected to diagnose various conditions. We provide in-house ultrasound scans and radiographs to help identify the best treatment plan for you.