Which Scan Is Best For Abdominal Pain?
If you have acute abdominal pain that keeps you awake all night;
If you have chronic abdominal pain suddenly in the middle of your meeting;
If you have had persistent abdominal pain for the last couple of days,
You must see a doctor! Your doctor will examine your physical condition and recommend a scan to see the underlying cause of your abdominal pain. Many scans are prevalent today in diagnosing the hidden cause of abdominal pain.
When you have severe abdominal pain, your doctor may order an abdominal X-ray, an abdominal CT scan, an abdominal Ultrasound, or an abdominal MRI, depending on various factors. However, the most common pick by doctors in this regard is an abdominal CT scan. Yet again, when your doctor needs to differentiate the soft tissues from other masses, MRI is the most significant preference.
It means which scan is best for abdominal pain depends on the –
- The reason behind the pain,
- Its origin,
- Its extent, and
- The scanning modality that helps accurately locate and assess the particular health abnormality or disease!
Besides, every scan has certain limitations, and not all patients can avail of every type of scan. For instance, a pregnant woman cannot pursue an X-Ray or CT scan as the radiation exposure during the scan can harm the fetus. On the other hand, people with metallic implants cannot get an MRI, as these metals can send a false signal to the magnet and tamper with the test accuracy.
To know which scan your doctor is likely to recommend in a particular situation, do not hesitate to read the entire blog!
An Abdominal X-Ray: The Preliminary Test for an Abdominal Scan!
When you have abdominal pain, your doctor may prescribe an abdominal X-ray to examine the potential issue in your abdominal cavity, intestines, and stomach. An abdominal X-ray is a process in which electromagnetic radiation beams generate a two-dimensional image of your abdominal organs.
An X-ray is a quick and painless process, and therefore your doctor’s preliminary choice for diagnosing the cause of your abdominal pain. An X-ray can detect conditions like appendicitis (Inflammation of the appendix), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and infections caused by a parasitic tapeworm called Echinococcus.
Your doctor may ask for an abdominal X-ray to diagnose an abdominal aortic aneurysm that triggers the abdominal pain. Doctors also use X-rays for diagnosing diseases like gallstones and kidney stones. However, only when large! An X-ray can even show other abnormalities such as a blockage in your intestine, widened large intestine, infections in the small intestine, etc.
An Abdominal CT: Doctors’ Common Choice!
Medical experts prominently talk about an abdominal CT (Computed Tomography) when discussing which scan is best for abdominal pain. It is because a CT scan can show what an X-ray cannot! It can help doctors identify smaller gallstones and kidney stones causing abdominal pain and also; the size, position, numbers, and composition of these stones!
A CT scan can identify tumors in your abdominal organs and other lesions which an X-ray may not show accurately. It can locate an injury and intra-abdominal bleeding. Your doctor may also ask for a CT scan to identify and assess the origin and extent of inflammation in your abdominal organs. Perhaps, in these cases, a CT scan serves better than an X-Ray!
The scanning procedure of CT is similar to an X-ray. The only difference is that a CT scan involves multiple X-Ray beams to generate two or three-dimensional images of your internal organs from different angles. This technique offers more precision and dexterity in medical diagnosis. It is also fast, non-invasive, and easily accessible.
An Abdominal Ultrasound: The Safe & Quick Diagnostic Alternative!
While an X-Ray or CT scan can bring you side effects and even health complications in some cases, many doctors prefer to go for an abdominal ultrasound to diagnose the cause of your abdominal pain. It is the safest modality present in healthcare today and applies to children, pregnant women, patients with allergies, and all!
An abdominal ultrasound is a process in which sound waves lay used to create cross-sectional images of your abdominal organs. It is a non-invasive process, conducted using a wand-like instrument called a transducer, and is thus painless. An ultrasound can reveal blockage in the blood flow to your abdominal organs, cysts, tumors, infections, and collection of pus or fluid.
Doctors use an abdominal ultrasound to measure the size of your abdominal aorta and thereby detect an aneurysm that plays a role in causing your abdominal pain. An abdominal ultrasound can also identify organ enlargement, like that of your kidney, gallbladder, spleen, etc. Your doctor may even recommend this scan if predicting an abnormal live function.
An Abdominal MRI: Superior in Diagnosing Complex Conditions!
If the aforementioned scans fail to detect the underlying cause of your abdominal pain, doctors order a second scan, typically an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). When it comes to which scan is best for abdominal pain caused by a complex disorder, MRI has to top the list. It is because an MRI can precisely detect benign or malignant tumors growing in your soft tissues.
During this scan, large magnets and computer-generated radio waves work to create a more detailed picture of your abdominal organs and tissues. It can help in early cancer diagnosis and also help determine the size, extent, and stage of abdominal tumors. Your doctor may use this method to diagnose glomerulonephritis (inflammation of kidney glomeruli).
An MRI can clarify the findings of a CT scan or Ultrasound, such as abnormal mass in the liver, kidney, pancreas, spleen, adrenals, etc. It can evaluate if the swelling of your kidney results from the backflow of urine. An abdominal MRI can detect liver cirrhosis and its stage, portal vein obstruction in your liver, blood clots in the vein draining blood from the kidney, and more.
So, you must have released by now that the answer to which scan is the best for abdominal pain is subjective and varies from one condition to another. Undoubtedly, your doctor is one to know which scanning modality can serve best for your case.
In case of emergencies, a CT scan is the most plausible choice for doctors, and in case of tissue damage, it is MRI. Neither you nor I know which one is the real cause of your abdominal pain, so it is advisable that you immediately see a doctor!