If you've been referred for imaging services at a hospital, it means that your doctor wants to take a closer look at what's going on inside your body. Imaging tests use different techniques to create pictures of the inside of your body, which can help your doctor to diagnose and treat a range of conditions. Some common imaging tests include X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and ultrasound scans. These tests are usually painless and non-invasive, and are designed to be as safe as possible. You may be referred for imaging tests if you have symptoms such as pain, swelling, or unexplained weight loss. These tests can also be used to monitor existing conditions and track how well treatments are working.
At Blackrock Health, we understand that waiting for diagnostic results can be stressful. That's why we offer fast access to our state-of-the-art facilities in Blackrock, Galway, Hermitage and Limerick. Across our three hospitals and our diagnostic clinic, we are committed to ongoing investment in imaging and lab tests. By offering some of the most advanced imaging and diagnostic technology, we aim to provide accurate and timely diagnoses. Our team of experts has the capacity and expertise to perform, analyse, and report results for a wide range of tests. This ensures that you can receive the highest possible standards of care and support. Whether you need routine tests or more urgent imaging, we aim to give you the reassurance of a result with the least possible delay.
Our diagnostic imaging departments provide a number of advanced imaging and interventional services to help diagnose and treat your medical condition. Our specialist team of consultant radiologists and radiographers offers a broad range of imaging services and interventional radiology using the most advanced imaging technology and techniques.
Some of our imaging services are only available in select locations. Please check with your preferred location to confirm that the service you seek is offered there.
For any radiology scan, always let us know if there is any chance you're pregnant before you book or attend your appointment.
A CT (Computed Tomography) scan, also known as a CAT scan, uses x-rays to take detailed images inside the body.
CT scans can show certain parts of the body with great clarity. This includes the lungs, bones, soft tissues and blood vessels. During a CT scan, a series of images are taken in slices and then stitched together to create a single view of the area being scanned. Each image slice is taken in less than 1 second, so the overall scan is done in minutes yet still provides great image clarity.
CT scans allow radiologists to easily diagnose conditions such as some cancers, cardiovascular disease, trauma or musculoskeletal disorders. A consultant may also suggest a CT scan to help plan radiotherapy treatment.
What to expect
On the day of your scan you may be asked to change into a hospital gown.
A CT scanner looks like a short tube with a hole at either end. For your scan, you'll lie on a bed that slides in and out of the CT scanner. The scanner will then revolve around you. Our modern CT scanners are quite quiet and make a short clicking noise.
Sometimes we need to use an intravenous (IV) contrast agent to help highlight areas of the body for the scan. In this case, a small cannula will be inserted into a vein in your arm. If the image is of your stomach, small bowel or colon, they may ask you to drink a liquid contrast dye.
If your scan includes a contrast dye, you might feel a warm sensation during the injection. You might also experience a metallic taste that should last only a minute or so.
Length of appointment: about 30 minutes.
You can learn more about CT Scans on our dedicated page about this topic here
A fluoroscopy uses x-rays and a contrast dye to examine a specific part of your body. The contrast dye shows up white on your x-ray and helps to show any abnormalities.
We use fluoroscopy to check for numerous conditions including:
The most common fluoroscopy studies are:
- Barium Swallows and Barium Meals, which examine the oesophagus, stomach and small intestine
- Small Bowel Series', which examines the small intestine
- Barium Enemas, which examine the large intestine or colon
What to expect
The most commonly used contrast dye is barium. Depending on the area of your body being looked at, your consultant will insert the dye in your anus or give you the dye to swallow in a drink.
Length of appointment: about 15-60 minutes.
Interventional radiology is a minimally invasive procedure that uses advanced imaging techniques to diagnose and treat many conditions without major surgery. At Blackrock Health hospitals, our expert teams specialise in interventional radiology procedures for the brain, blood vessels, spine, heart and other vital areas. You receive the care you need with less pain and a quicker recovery than invasive surgery.
How and why are interventional radiology procedures performed?
Interventional radiology procedures diagnose and treat a range of conditions using needles or catheters. A catheter is a thin, flexible tube that we insert into an artery or vein through a tiny incision (cut) in your skin.
Our interventional radiologists thread the catheter through a blood vessel to access areas like your brain or heart without open surgery. Real-time images from X-rays, CTs or MRIs show us where to guide the catheter or needle, so we perform the procedure in precisely the right location.
Most patients don’t need general anaesthesia for interventional procedures. We give you a local anaesthetic, so you are comfortable during the procedure and, if necessary, sedation, which keeps you calm but doesn’t put you completely to sleep. With this type of anaesthetic, you can go home the same day as your procedure.
We may use interventional techniques for:
- Facet Joint Injections / Nerve Root Block: These injections help to relieve pain and inflammation in your back by targeting specific nerves.
- Image Guided Biopsies: A procedure that uses imaging technology to locate and extract a tissue sample for examination.
- Image Guided Drainage: A procedure that uses imaging technology to guide the placement of a tube to drain fluid or abscesses from the body.
- Fibroid Embolisation: A procedure that blocks blood flow to fibroids in the uterus, causing them to shrink and alleviate symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding and pain.
- Percutaneous Nephrostomy: A procedure that involves inserting a catheter into your kidney through your skin to help drain urine in cases where a blockage is present.
- Insertion of IVC Filter: A procedure where a small device is placed in your inferior vena cava to help prevent blood clots from traveling to your lungs.
- Insertion of PICC Line / Partacath / Linograms: These are all types of procedures that involve the placement of a long, thin tube into a large vein in your arm or chest, allowing for easier administration of medications, fluids, and blood products.
- Cerebral Angiograms: A procedure that involves imaging the blood vessels in your brain to diagnose and treat conditions such as aneurysms, tumours, and vascular malformations.
- Percutaneous Gastrostomy: A procedure that involves placing a feeding tube through your skin and into your stomach, allowing for nutrition to be administered when eating is not possible.
- Insertion of Anterograde JJ Stent: A procedure where a stent is placed in your ureter to help alleviate blockages and improve urine flow.
- Biliary Drainage Stenting: A procedure that involves placing a stent in your bile duct to help drain bile and relieve blockages caused by conditions such as cancer.
What to expect
During your interventional radiology procedure, you can expect to be in a sterile environment and awake but sedated or under anaesthesia depending on the procedure. The radiologist will use imaging techniques to guide them during the procedure, and you may feel pressure or discomfort but should not experience pain. After the procedure, you will be monitored to ensure that there are no complications, and you will receive specific instructions for recovery depending on the procedure. Your doctor will provide more detailed information about what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.
Length of procedure: around 30 to 60 minutes.
Mammography, also known as a mammogram, uses a low dose of x-rays to examine your breasts. The soft radiation helps to show different types of breast tissue and any abnormalities.
Consultants use mammograms to help diagnose conditions such as breast cancer.
What to expect
On the day of your scan you'll be taken to our changing room to undress to the waist. You'll be provided with an examination gown to wear.
Once you're ready, we'll ask you some routine questions. These will include:
whether you are having periods
the date of the first day of your last period
the date and location of your last mammogram
If you have images from your last mammogram, please bring them with you.
During your mammogram, a specialist radiographer will position your breast in the mammography unit and apply a clear plastic compression plate. We use this to make sure we get the clearest image of your breast. You'll feel some pressure on the breast but this will only last about 10-15 few seconds. You'll hear a slight whirring noise from the unit as this happens. Once the scan is complete, the compression will automatically release.
After your scan, you may notice some skin discolouration and your breast may ache for a short time. But your mammogram will not cause any damage or long-term discomfort.
Length of appointment: around 10-15 minutes.
An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan uses magnets and radio waves to take detailed images inside your body. Unlike an x-ray or CT scan, an MRI does not use ionising radiation.
This type of scan can help detect changes in organs, blood vessels and bones and also identify injuries to muscles and ligaments.
Sometimes we need to use an intravenous (IV) contrast agent to help highlight areas of the body for the scan. In this case, a small cannula will be inserted into a vein in your arm.
What to expect
Before your scan, you'll be asked to remove your clothing and change into a hospital gown.
You'll lie on a bed that slides into the MRI machine. An MRI machine looks like a big tube with a hole at either end.
During the scan, your radiographer will be able to hear you and talk to you at all times.
An MRI can be noisy. However, we provide piped music to make sure you're as comfortable as possible. If you're worried about your scan or are claustrophobic (have a fear of closed spaces), please talk to your GP. They may be able to prescribe you something to help ease any feelings of anxiety.
Length of appointment: about 30 minutes.
You can learn more about MRI Scans on our dedicated page about this topic here
Nuclear Medicine examinations allow functional imaging of an organ through an intravenous injection, inhalation or ingestion of a radioactive tracer. The distribution of this tracer is captured by a SPECT/CT scanner. The SPECT/CT scanner creates a 3D anatomical image on which a 3 D functional or metabolic image is superimposed upon. Common procedures in nuclear medicine are Bone Scans, Lung ventilations, and Perfusions.
Myocardial Perfusion Scan
A myocardial perfusion scan provides a non-invasive method of assessing the blood supply to the heart and also provides information concerning cardiac function.
You will receive an injection of a medication intravenously that stresses the heart, avoiding the need for walking on a treadmill. Scans are taken before and after the infusion.
This determines the presence of any significant lack of blood to parts of the heart that suggest significant narrowing of the coronary arteries. It is a highly sensitive and specific test to evaluate the blood supply of the heart; a normal study carries an excellent prognosis.
What to expect
You will be given an injection of a small amount of radioactive substance, which will be absorbed by your heart muscles. Then you will lie down on a table and a camera will take pictures of your heart. The test takes around 2-3 hours and is not painful, but you will need to lie still during the scan. Your doctor will explain the results of the test to you afterwards.
Length of procedure: about 30-60 minutes.
PET CT (Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography) is a combination of a PET scan and a CT scan.
During a PET CT scan, we inject a special type of radioactive sugar into a vein. This radioactive sugar helps us determine the manner of the lesion being imaged.
This process is often used to help accurately diagnose disease, infection and inflammation in the body. It can also help pinpoint the best approach to treatment as well as monitor your treatment progress.
We offer the following PET CT scans:
- whole-body scan for oncology, infection and inflammation
- brain scan for Alzheimer's Disease, epilepsy and brain tumours
- cardiac scan
What to expect
Ahead of your PET CT scan, we'll measure your weight, height and blood glucose levels.
Your radiographer will then insert a small cannula into a vein in your arm so they can inject the radioactive sugar.
You'll then need to rest for 1 hour in our comfortable PET CT uptake room. You cannot read or listen to music during this time.
Once you've rested for an hour, we'll take you for your scan. This part of your appointment will take 30-60 minutes.
Length of appointment: about 3 hours
An ultrasound, sometimes called a sonogram, takes images inside your body using sound waves. These high-frequency waves go through the skin and are then reflected by your organs to form a picture on a screen. Ultrasound is very useful in helping us diagnose many different conditions. As ultrasound does not use x-rays, it's very safe.
Ultrasounds can show the structure and movement of your organs, as well as how blood flows through your vessels.
What to expect
You may be asked to change into a gown before your scan. During your ultrasound, you'll lie, usually face up, on the ultrasound bed.
During your ultrasound, a sonographer will apply gel to the area being looked at. This helps the sound waves travel through the skin. Your sonographer will then move a handheld transducer over the surface of your skin. You may feel some pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined.
If you're having a pelvic scan, your consultant may recommend an internal ultrasound. This would enable them to take close-up, high-quality images from inside your body. We will always ask you for your consent before proceeding with this.
Length of appointment: About 30 minutes.
An x-ray is a commonly-used, pain-free scan that takes images of your bones. X-rays allow radiologists to easily diagnose injuries, bone conditions and other abnormalities.
All x-rays use a small dose of radiation to achieve the best results.
What to expect
You may need to change into a gown depending on the body part being x-rayed.
A radiographer will then take you into a room where you'll sit, lie or stand for your scan. During the x-ray you'll need to keep as still as possible. The radiographer will take the images and review them at the end of your scan.
Length of appointment: around 5-15 minutes.
How do I get this?
You will need a referral letter from your GP or consultant before you make an appointment.
Is this insured?
Not all services are covered by health insurance. To find out if you're covered, please check your health insurance before your visit. You can do this on our health insurance cover check page, or by contacting your health insurer.
How do I pay?
If you do not have health insurance or your health plan does not cover the full cost, you will need to pay the balance due before your treatment or procedure. You may be able to claim back some fees on your insurance. To pay an excess not covered by your insurance or any other inpatient fees, please visit our payment page. If you have any queries about paying for your care, please contact the finance team in your hospital.