Exam Descriptions

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Exam Descriptions

Barium X-ray (upper and lower GI)

This type of diagnostic X-ray uses barium, a metallic chalky liquid, to diagnose abnormalities of the digestive tract. Patients may be given barium orally or rectally to coat the inside of the organs so they can be readily viewed on an X-ray. Barium enema, barium small-bowel enema, and barium swallow are types of barium X-rays.

Bone density/osteoporosis

A bone density test, also known as bone mass measurement or bone mineral density test, measures the strength and density of your bones. It is frequently used for patients with risk factors for osteoporosis. When the test is repeated at a later date, your test results can be compared with bone density standards for what is expected in someone of your age, gender, and size.

Breast MRI

Is an additional imaging tool physicians may use in the diagnosis of breast cancer and other breast conditions.

MRI of the breast provides images not attainable through mammography, ultrasound or CT imaging.

Cardiac MR 

Provides anatomic and functional information and offers the ability to image the heart in any plane. Like all magnetic resonance imaging, cardiac MR provides high resolution and does not use radiation.

Among its numerous capabilities, cardiac MR can help:

  • Evaluate the structures and function of the heart, valves, major vessels and surrounding structures
  • Detect, diagnose and manage coronary heart disease and a variety of cardiovascular problems. Detects the buildup of plaque and blockages in the blood vessels and helps physicians determine the extent of damage caused by a heart attack or heart disease.
  • Plan a patient's treatment for cardiovascular problems and monitor a patient's progress

Cardiac MR is available at Inova Alexandria Hospital and at Inova MRI Center – Fairfax. Recently, Inova Alexandria Hospital was the first hospital in Northern Virginia to receive accreditation for its cardiac MR program from the American College of Radiology. 

Computed tomography angiography (CTA)

This special kind of CT scan visualizes blood flow through the body's arteries and veins. We also use the exam to identify aneurysms in the aorta and other major blood vessels.

Computed tomography (CT) or computed axial tomography (CAT)

Computed tomography (CT) scanning uses X-rays to take pictures of cross-sections, or "slices," of body tissues and organs from different angles. CT scans reveal if tissues in the body are fluid or solid; they are used to diagnose tumors, internal injuries and various other problems. Physicians use this innovative technology to help diagnose disease and life-threatening illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, stroke and chest pain.


DEXA is the abbreviation for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, a type of X-ray imaging used to measure bone density. We use DEXA most frequently to diagnose osteoporosis.


Fluoroscopy is a study of moving body structures, similar to an X-ray "movie." A continuous X-ray beam is passed through the body part being examined, then transmitted to a monitor where the body part in motion can be seen in detail.

Interventional radiology (IR)

Interventional radiology is a subspecialty of radiology that features minimally invasive procedures performed with image guidance. Interventional radiology uses X-ray, CT, MRI or ultrasound technology to visually guide a physician as he or she threads a catheter or other tiny instrument into the body to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

Interventional radiology is available at all Inova hospitals. Our IR experts are at the forefront of this fast-growing medical field. The number of minimally invasive alternatives to traditional surgery increases every year. Your physician is your best resource when considering one of these procedures.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI provides an unparalleled view of inside the human body using a huge magnet, radio waves and computer technology to produce high quality images.

MRI exams are safe, painless and are used to diagnose many conditions involving the brain, spine, joints, muscles, abdomen, breast, heart, prostate and blood vessels.

How does it work? MRI relies on the radio frequency range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The body is made up primarily of water and fat, which have many hydrogen nuclei. Hydrogen nuclei have properties that when placed within a magnetic field will align themselves in the same direction and spin when a radio frequency wave is introduced. This spin creates heat, which is released from the spinning nuclei and collected by the scanner to produce an image through specialized computer processing.


Mammography is a safe and effective low-dose X-ray of the breast used to help diagnose breast diseases and abnormalities. The major advantage of mammography is it can identify problems at a very early and treatable stage. Breast cancer, for example, can be discovered as early as two years before it is evident during a physical examination.

3D mammography (Breast Tomosynthesis)

3D mammography is the latest technology in breast cancer screening and detection. It allows the Radiologist to examine breast tissue one layer at a time, improving the ability to detect abnormalities while reducing false alarms due to overlapping tissue.

In addition to your screening mammogram, the tomosynthesis portion will be added where your breast will be under compression while the x-ray arm of the mammography machine makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of breast images at a number of angles. This only takes a few seconds.

Digital mammography

Many Inova diagnostic imaging facilities now offer digital mammography, the newest technology for breast imaging. Digital mammography uses a process similar to our popular digital cameras and has become favored for many of the same reasons: quick, clear images that are easy to view, work with and share. The X-ray signals are picked up by detectors. The image is projected onto a computer screen for easy viewing and consultation among physicians.

Watch a short video about the benefits of Inova’s digital breast imaging capabilities


Nuclear medicine

Nuclear medicine includes a series of different exams that utilizes very small amounts of radioactive material within the patient to generate images of the internal organs. Patients may swallow, receive an injection or inhale a small, safe dose of radioactive material that collects in the part of the body being examined. Special detectors track the material and together with computer technology, create the views that aid Inova physicians in diagnosis of different diseases and conditions.

Nuclear medicine imaging procedures often identify abnormalities in the early stages of a disease long before many medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic tests. Additionally, we sometimes use nuclear medicine for thyroid therapies and certain cancer treatment therapies.

Pediatric radiology

The Pediatric Radiology Department at Inova Children's Hospital performs more than 60,000 examinations for children each year. We provide diagnostic imaging and treatment services to children of all ages, from premature neonates and infants to children and adolescents. Our child-friendly suite is designed especially for our young patients. And our Pediatric Child Life Specialist is trained to help young patients understand their procedures and lessen any fears.

Learn more about Inova Pediatric Radiology Arrow


PET/CT (positron emission tomography with computed tomography) is the most advanced medical imaging technique available today. PET/CT successfully draws on the structural detail of a CT scan with PET's ability to detect changes in cell function. The combination of these two fine-tuned technologies allows for earlier and more accurate detection of disease and changes in cell function.

Learn more about PET/CT 


Ultrasound Is a very safe, effective imaging technology that uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of internal organs and tissues in real time. Ultrasound images show movement of organs, blood flow and heart valve functions. We frequently use it to evaluate the progress of a growing fetus in a pregnant woman, giving expectant parents their first "baby pictures."

Ultrasound is also useful for examining the body's internal organs, including the heart, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and bladder.


X-ray is the oldest and still most commonly used type of imaging to examine different parts of the body and to help a physician diagnose medical conditions.