WHEN you or your loved one falls ill, you’d go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong. You must

find out why and get a diagnosis so that you can start some sort of treatment programme. The

process of getting answers to your health issues is called diagnostic procedures. Different tests are done depending on the nature of your complaints.

For some, a simple X-ray is all that’s needed. There’s no advance preparations required. However, there will be times when you’d need specific tests done to find out more. These different diagnostic

procedures can include anything from a blood and urine test, CT scan, ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), mammogram (breast imaging), endoscopy and colonoscopy right down to a stress test. In some instances, you may need several types of tests to be done.

As a general rule, you’ll be told what to do to prepare for the test. It would be good if you could read up and find out more about the tests you’re going for too. At least this way you’ll be able to ask relevant questions, especially if you’re anxious about your condition. You’d need to allay those fears and go into it calmly and positively.

Some tests take several hours to be done; and the preparation for it even longer. So if you need

to have a few tests done, you may need to spend a few days doing different things at the hospital.

There are certain tests that some people shouldn’t do. For example, people with pacemakers or any metal in their body cannot undergo a MRI scan. Metals and magnets don’t go well together. Women who think they may be pregnant or if they’re breastfeeding should not go for certain scans. People with diabetes or those on certain medications must inform the doctors during the initial discussion. Those with renal (kidney) issues may also not be able to do certain tests.

USEFUL THINGS TO KNOW

For the most part of the different diagnostic tests, there would be things you’d need to do to prepare for them. Those going for a mammogram wouldn’t need to watch what they eat or drink but

must remember not to put on any powder, perfumes, lotions or deodorants between their neck and waist on the day of the test. Those tiny particles may show up in the scan and spoil the reading.

It’s also a good idea to know your menstrual cycles. Pre-menopausal women with sensitive breasts should schedule their mammogram right after their period. Meanwhile, those going for a CT scan

without “contrast” must not have anything orally six hours before the test. No preparation is required for a CT scan without contrast.

Fasting the night before would be required for certain blood tests and endoscopy. You may be given preparation kits to take home to be done the day before the test. For some tests, you may need to

fast and then take some diagnostic dye or fluids just before the test.

This test helps the radiologist to see images of how the fluid moves from your mouth to your stomach. Some tests like an abdominal ultrasound would require you to have a full bladder. Other tests like a colonoscopy require you to have an empty bowel.

On the day of the test, it’s best to dress comfortably. Wearing two-piece clothing without any metal bits like zippers or buttons would be ideal. Most hospitals would give you a hospital gown to wear, especially for the MRI.

While you can eat and drink normally before an MRI (unless your doctor has given you specific instructions), what you must not have on you is more important, especially anything with metal bits like underwire bras, hair clips and eyeglasses.

Although the MRI is completely painless, it’s imperative that you stay completely still so that the machine can capture clear images of your body. The machine makes repetitive, loud thumping noises. You’ll be given earplugs that cancel out the noise while you listen to soothing music. Those with claustrophobia may have problems going into the tunnel that slides you into a tight space where you can’t move.

Tell your doctor or the technician if you suffer from this. They can give you something to calm you.

When you go for these tests, leave your valuables and jewellery at home. Bring only your identification and insurance cards as well as some money for small necessities. It may be a good idea to bring your last X-rays or films with you. Also bring along your medication, especially your pain and anxiety ones, if you have them. Inform the nurse if you’re on blood thinner medications or aspirin.

Have someone accompany you to these tests. Don’t drive yourself to the hospital. If you have to go through all this by yourself with no one to assist you, take a taxi home. This is the time to call a relative or friend to assist you.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampan g. You can reach her at juneitajohari@yahoo.com.

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