Diagnostic Imaging is an Important Tool After Any Accident, But Which One is Right?
Within the specialized practice of Personal Injury Law, lawyers see an endless list of injuries that affect clients and have caused them lifelong pain and suffering, drastically reducing their Quality of Life (“QoL”). From medical malpractice errors to car accident injuries, there’s never a specific injury that’s more or less painful than the next; it depends on the client and how each individual experiences pain. Each injury a client suffers due to an accident or medical negligence causes symptoms unique to the client. Clients are often bed or wheelchair bound, or have to use mobility aides such as a walker or crutches. To determine what’s best for the client’s recovery, diagnostic imaging is often the first tool utilized in a patient’s treatment plan. The extent of the injury needs to be determined before a plan of action is enacted for their care.
That’s the one thing that remains the same across each and every Personal Injury case: the necessity of diagnostic imaging to properly and thoroughly determine the extent of the injuries sustained. In this Shaked Law Resource article we’ll provide the information needed to understand the different types of diagnostic imaging used for specific injuries. From a simple X-ray image to Diffuse Tensor Imaging, those who have suffered any form of injury from an accident will need to undergo diagnostic imaging to provide a clear picture for the medical team to offer the best treatment plan possible. In severe cases, such as a Spinal Cord Injury or a Traumatic Brain Injury that may require extensive surgery to treat, more than one type of imaging technique may be used.
What are the different types of diagnostic imaging?
There are several commonly used forms of diagnostic imaging used to determine the extent of injuries a patient has sustained.
- X-ray image: used as a first line study to visualize broken bones
- MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging: used to diagnose neck, back, spine, and cervical spine injuries as well as used to get a better look at cartilage and tissue, which doesn’t appear on an X-ray
- CT Scan, or Computed Tomography: commonly used to diagnose muscle and bone injuries with better visualization than the standard X-ray.
- DTI Scan, or Diffuse Tensor Imaging: this high level imaging is commonly used in TBI patients to get the best possible picture of the brain available. It’s the only imaging study currently available that allows doctors to see the white matter of the brain, and thusly determine the extent of a brain injury.
What is each type of diagnostic imaging used for?
Now that we’ve established the types of imaging available to patients after they’ve sustained an injury in an accident, we’ll explore what each type of imaging is used for, and why doctors might make the choice to use one type of scan over another.
X-ray imaging: this standard form of imaging is used to visualize broken bones which may require surgical intervention. However, X-ray imaging can also detect the presence of foreign matter inside the body. In the event of glass shattering as the result of a car accident, or a surgical tool negligently left in the patient post-op, an X-ray can determine their presence and the medical team can act quickly to remove them. X-rays are usually quick, and take no more than a few minutes to complete in an in or outpatient setting.
This type of imaging is available at ERs, urgent care centers, and even in doctors’ offices.
MRI imaging: this type of imaging is used to visualize injuries that cannot be seen on a standard X-ray. Cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and muscle can be seen on this type of scan. MRI has no radiation, as the use of strong magnets are utilized to obtain the image. MRI imaging can take longer than the standard X-ray, and depending on what the scan is necessitated for, can run anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours or more. Each doctor has a specific style of MRI imaging they prefer, and each has its own specific timeframe. An MRI causes no pain to the patient, and depending on the patient’s preference, can be done in an “open” or “closed” setting with relaxing music and warm blankets provided for comfort.
An MRI can be performed either outpatient or inpatient, in a hospital, or in a specific MRI facility. Patients who experience claustrophobia should let their doctor know before hand, as there are many MRI facilities that offer the “open” MRI option to avoid this unpleasant and often scary occurrence, especially after an accident that causes trauma to the victim.
CT scan: A CT scan, or computed tomography scan is faster than an MRI, and can visualize most of the same things we mentioned above. However, like an X-ray, a CT scan’s level of radiation is often not preferable to the patient and their doctor (for various reasons including pregnant women who cannot be exposed to radiation), thus why he or she may skip the usage of this imaging technique and prescribe an MRI instead. If CT scan is the preferred method chosen by the doctor, it can be performed in most situations very quickly, less than 20 minutes.
DTI scan: this more advanced imaging technique is used in Traumatic Brain Injury patients to get the most thorough possible image of the brain. As previously mentioned, DTI is the only imaging study currently available that allows a doctor to see the brain’s white matter, give the image a score, and thusly determine the extent of a brain injury with far more precision than a CT or MRI can provide in these specific situations.
The importance of a Personal Injury Lawyer after an accident
It’s important to immediately seek legal representation from a Board Certified lawyer after an accident. Once a victim has been stabilized on the medical side, it’s important that they or their family seek legal advice on the next steps that need to be taken to ensure they’re able to be compensated fully for the pain and suffering sustained as the result of another’s actions. The most important thing to remember when speaking with a Personal Injury lawyer is to be honest! Honesty gets the client far, while lying to the lawyer or exaggerating the events that occurred can hurt or even kill the case.
Disclaimer: Any symptoms you experience should always be discussed with a licensed medical professional, and one should never rely on articles found via the internet when making important medical decisions. This article is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.