MEDICAL IMAGING

SANITAS Medical Imaging services include Radiology (X-ray), Sonography (Ultrasound) and Cardiography (Echo). This unit is on level 2 of SANITAS Hospital in Baraka Plaza. This unit is open Monday - Saturday 9am to 4pm and on Sundays for pre-booked appointments.

Medical Imaging is not a walk-in unit, you should have a prescription from a doctor and a diagnostic indicator on that prescription. Your prescription may be here in the Hospital from one of our own practitioners or you may have a request from another Hospital or doctor in Dar es Salaam, or even from overseas, all are welcome.

If you would like to know more about the different medical imaging types, how they are done, what to expect, please check this information below:

| What is an X-Ray? | Why get an X-Ray? | Is X-Ray dangerous? | What types of X-Ray are there? | Chest X-Ray | What is an Ultrasound | How is an Ultrasound performed? | Abdominal Ultrasound | Pelvic Ultrasound | Obstetric Ultrasound | Breast Ultrasound | Transvaginal Ultrasound | Doppler Ultrasound | ECHO |




WHAT IS AN X-RAY?

An X-Ray is an image. It is an image of the inside of your body that your doctor can use to help diagnose a great many medical conditions or symptoms. The image is created with an X-Ray machine, which sends rays of ionizing radiation through your body, different densities of tissue and bone absorb the radiation to different degrees. The machine records the image of this absorbtion, which gives an impression of the internal parts of your body.

Tissue absorbs almost all of the radiation rays, so only a faint image of tissue is created. Membranes and thin tissue layers are not left visible in the x-ray image, some denser tissue like the heart or stomach may be visible quite faintly, depending on the method in which the X-Ray is taken. Bone however does not absorb all of the radiation and the images records quietly clearly the location and outlines of bones.


WHY GET AN X-RAY?

An X-Ray is most often requested by doctors when looking for conditions of the bones, traumatic injury, degradation due to malnutrition or age, Bone joints and joint function, bone malformations, bone growth assessment or malformation, as well as bony deposits or calcium traces that may be visible in other organs, such as kidney stones or calcium deposits in tumours or cancers. X-Ray is also used when looking for foreign bodies such as metal, coins, tubes and a variety of objects that may have been inserted or swallowed into the body, these objects show up very clearly on X-ray.


IS THERE ANY RISK IN GETTING AN X-RAY?

Radiation is naturally occurring all through our environment. An x-ray machine takes all of that radiation and brings it together and directs it through the machine in one ray. So a single x-ray is hardly more radiation than you might be exposed to naturally. The X-ray machines fires the radiation like a beam of light for just a fraction of a second, after it is turned off no radiation remains, in your body, or in the air or room around you. So x-ray is considered quite safe.

However for children, unborn babies, elderly or people immune compromised it could have some detrimental effect in large doses, although this is not proven it is best to err on the side of caution. If you are pregnant, have a pacemaker, or are undergoing cancer therapy or have any condition that significantly weakens your immunity you should let the technician know so they can make the safest decision for you.


WHAT TYPES OF X-RAYS ARE THERE?

Like any other exam, there are differences according to the part of the body that the investigation is targeting. A standard X-Ray may be for the Chest, Cranium, Spine, Forearm, Tibia, Ankle, Fingers, Wrist, facial etc. Different X-Rays can be taken in different positions, sometimes standing up, sometimes laying down, sometimes from the side, sometimes from both sides. The doctor will request the position and angle according to what symptoms are being investigated.

Additionally to these standard X-Rays there are different X-ray procedures that include Barium and Angiography, which involve taking an image of the body after swallowing a liquid dye that shows up in the X-ray. This is used to show blood flow and clots etc.


CHEST X-RAY

A Chest X-ray is one of the most commonly prescribed X-rays and is often requested when a doctor is investigating:

  • > Chest pain
  • >Persistent fever
  • >suspected pneumonia
  • >Persistent cough
  • >heart failure, heart conditions
  • >and many more medical symptoms.

A chest X-Ray is most often performed whilst you are standing up. The technician will stand you in front of a square panel, they will adjust it as much to your height and comfort as possible, although you may be required to hold a particular posture for a few minutes, which can be slightly uncomfortable. When you are in the correct position, the technician will leave you alone in the X-ray room for a few seconds in order to take the image. The whole process of preparing, positioning you and taking the image and ensuring the correct image is taken may take up to 15 minutes, although can be even much faster.



WHAT IS AN ULTRASOUND?

Ultrasound is a method for medical practitioners to look inside your body, that is non invasive and does not use radiation or any harmful chemicals or uncomfortable postures. For most Ultrasound procedures you will be asked to lay down on an exam bed, and relax. The technician will ask you to uncover your chest, abdominal or pelvic region, depending on the area that is being scanned. The technician will then put some gel onto the area, this may feel cold, but it is water based, will not damage your skin or clothing in any way whatsoever. The transducer/probe (small wand connected to the ultrasound machine) will then be slowly moved around across the gel area, and you will be able to see the images being produced on the machine.

If at any time during a physical exam you are always welcome to bring a friend or family member with you, or request a nurse or other member of staff if you need comfort or distraction during the exam. Most Ultrasound procedures are over within 30 minutes or less.

An Ultrasound machine uses sound waves, which are directed through a probe or transducer connected to the machine, and using sonographic technology these waves send an image back to the machine. An Ultrasound machine can produces images in real time, so it can give information about the movement of body organs and even blood flow through the veins. An ultrasound image can show details of soft tissue and organs that are not visible in an x-ray.



HOW IS AN ULTRASOUND PERFORMED?

An Ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure, there is no cutting or needles or squeezing of body parts. For most ultrasound exams, you will be positioned lying face-up on an examination table. Sometimes, depending on the exam requested, you may be turned to either side or on occasion placed in a face down position to improve the quality of the images. The technician will put some water-based gel onto your skin in the area that is being scanned. The gel helps create an unbroken channel for the radio waves from your body to the machine, without disruption from air or bubbles. The technician will hold the probe or transducer flat against that area of the body, on the gel, and move it back and forth. It may feel a bit cold, or a bit strange, but that is usually the most discomfort that you will experience. Once the imaging is complete, the gel will be wiped off your skin, it does not leave any mark or stain or discolour clothing. There are different kinds of ultrasounds, in different parts of the body for different investigative purposes, please see below for more information on some of the most common below:

ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND

An abdominal ultrasound is a scan around the mid to upper abdominal region, it can be used to see:


  • >Kidneys
  • >Liver
  • >Gallbladder
  • >Pancreas
  • >Spleen
  • >Abdominal arteries

This type of ultrasound may be prescribed by your doctor to investigate or diagnose organ damage after injury, kidney function, abdominal pain, causes of abdominal swelling, looking for causes of fever, looking for stones in the gallbladder or kidneys, or the diagnosis of tumours and cancers.
To prepare for this test you may be asked if you have eaten that day as images can be better when the stomach is not full. It will depend on the urgency and the part of the body that your doctor is investigating. This Ultrasound procedure is usually completed within 30 minutes or may be less. You are always welcome to bring a friend or family member with you, or request a nurse or other member of staff if you need comfort or distraction during the procedure.

PELVIC ULTRASOUND

A Pelvic Ultrasound is a scan of the organs in your pelvic region, the lower abdominal/belly area. It is most often prescribed for women when investigating:

  • >Pelvic pain
  • >Abnormal bleeding
  • >Menstruation cycles
  • >Bladder conditions
  • >Many types of cysts, tumours and growths
  • >the source of fever
  • >The Uterus and cervix
  • >Swelling in pelvic organs


It may also be prescribed for men when investigating issues of:

  • >Prostate
  • >Seminal vesicles
  • >Bladder

To prepare for this Ultrasound you may be asked to drink a large volume of water, until your bladder is full. It is the same non-invasive non-painful procedure, but because you are required to keep your bladder full during the procedure, it may be a little uncomfortable. This Ultrasound procedure is usually completed within 30 minutes or may be less. You are always welcome to bring a friend or family member with you, or request a nurse or other member of staff if you need comfort or distraction during the procedure.

OBSTETRIC ULTRASOUND

An Obstetric Ultrasound is ordered by your doctor usually when you are pregnant, to assess many things that the doctor needs to know such as:

  • >Presence of the foetus
  • >Position of the foetus
  • >evaluating the condition of the uterus, placenta, cervix etc
  • >Assessing the age and growth rate of the foetus


This ultrasound is performed as any other, it is non-invasive, not painful at all, just your belly area is exposed and the gel is used to assist the machine to produce the best images. During this exam, you will be able to see your baby on the screen, perhaps see the heart beating and depending on the age of the foetus you may also be able to ask if it is a boy or a girl. This Ultrasound procedure is usually completed within 30 minutes or may be less. You are always welcome to bring a friend or family member with you, or request a nurse or other member of staff if you need comfort or distraction during the procedure.



BREAST ULTRASOUND

An Ultrasound of the breast, or both breasts may be requested by your doctor after a physical breast exam, where there is perhaps hardness in the breast or a specific lump found, or an unidentified discharge from the nipple.

A Breast Ultrasound is not the same as a breast x-ray (Mammogram)but it can identify conditions that a breast x-ray cannot, and it is also a useful tool in breast examination when a woman is pregnant and should not be exposed to ionizing radiation which is used during x-ray.

A breast Ultrasound can produce images showing different tissue densities, and blood flow to areas of suspected tissue. It is not the be all and end all in breast cancer diagnosis, but is a very important supplementary examination. If a Mammogram shows suspected breast cancer, a breast Ultrasound can give more information on the suspected tissue, and the Ultrasound can also be used during a biopsy procedure to sample the tissue at the most appropriate spot (Ultrasound guided breast biopsy).

A breast Ultrasound is conducted as for all other ultrasounds, usually you will be laying on your back on the exam bed, your breast/s will be uncovered, the gel will be placed in the area of interest, this may be cold but no other discomfort is there. The technician will move the transducer/probe across and around the breast mass to get full images. As for any other physical exam you are welcome to bring a friend or family member, or request a nurse or other staff member to be present if you need comfort or distraction during the procedure. The full exam will usually take not more than 30 minutes, although if both breasts are being scanned it may run a little over this.

TRANSVAGINAL ULTRASOUND

A Transvaginal Ultrasound is only for women, it is a different method of conducting the pelvic or obstetric ultrasound. However, it is a little more like a gynecological exam as the probe rather than being placed on top of the skin in the pelvic/abdominal region, it is placed into the vagina. This places the probe inside the body and much closer to the organs and in the case of pregnancy much closer to the foetus.

This type of Ultrasound is very helpful in cases where the pregnancy is ectopic (where the foetus is developing in the fallopian tubes instead of in the uterus), where the pregnancy is very early for a better image, and also can gain better images where the patient maybe overweight and the standard ultrasound image is obstructed by extra fatty tissue.

For this type of Ultrasound method, rather than filling up your bladder before the exam, you will be asked to empty your bladder before the exam. There is no other special requirement except to be relaxed. You are welcome to bring a friend or family member with you if you need to have someone to talk to or you may request a nurse or other staff member to also be with you if you are at all tense about this exam.

In this type of Ultrasound your privacy and comfort is paramount, if you are at any time uncomfortable you may say so. If you are not comfortable for any reason with the technician you may request a different one. It is not as uncomfortable as say a pap smear procedure, as the probe is narrow and is only inserted 2-3 inches. All protocols of sterilization and preparation are followed for the probe and each different exam a new cover is also placed over the probe along with the normal gel. The images are produced by moving the probe at different angles. The procedure should not take more than 30 minutes from start to finish, most usually less.

DOPPLER ULTRASOUND

A Doppler Ultrasound uses the same machine, same transducer/probe, the method as the above pelvic and abdominal ultrasounds, but it is targeted at different parts of the body, in particular arteries. A Doppler Ultrasound uses the same sound waves that are used to give a picture of your organs or your baby, to give a picture of blood flow through different arteries. It can be used to measure the blood flow in external parts of your body like arms and legs, and also in the foetus if you are pregnant.

A Doppler Ultrasound is an important tool in Monitoring and diagnosis of heart rate and blood flow in the foetus, blood flow to the foetus, blood vessel defects, cardiac malformations, less than normal or absent blood flow to different organs, narrowing of blood vessels and a multitude of blood flow symptoms that can affect your wellbeing.

A Doppler ultrasound produces images in colour that show the strength and direction of flow of the blood within the vessels. A Power Doppler also shows fine details of blood flow, which is particularly important if blood flow is reduced in a particular area.

There are no special requirements for a Doppler Ultrasaound, you only need to relax. It will usually take place laying on your back, sometimes on your side. The same transducer/probe is used and the gel is applied and the technician will move the transducer/probe across your skin in the target area. The full procedure should not take more than 30 minutes, although in cases where more than one limb is being examined it could be up to 45 minutes-1 hour, but very rarely.



ECHOCARDIOGRAM

ECHOCARDIOGRAM or Echo, is another non-invasive that uses sound waves or radio waves to produce an image of what is happening inside your body. Echo is mainly used to investigate heart conditions or symptoms.

A TransThoracicEchocardiogram (TTE) is the most common type of Echo that is requested by doctors. As with other sonographic investigations it is non-invasive and should not be uncomfortable at all. You will be laying on an exam bed on your back, the doctor or technician may conduct the test. They will put some gel on the chest/abdominal area and the transducer/probe will be moved through the gel across the chest/abdominal area. From start to finish this exam should not take more then 20-30 minutes.

At SANITAS your Echo may be conducted by the technicians in the Medical Imaging unit, or it may be conducted in the physicians consulting room itself.