Radiology

Image of scanning room
Radiology is the use of imaging to diagnose, treat and monitor various disease processes.

We provide a Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm service to all patients for the following specialities (except where stated):

  • A&E x-ray (24-hour service)
  • General (OP/GP) x ray (9am to 5pm, GP's start at 8am)
  • fluoroscopic (digital) imaging, including barium studies, endoscopy and pain clinic
  • general ultrasound (abdominal/doppler)
  • obstetric and gynaecological ultrasound (including baby scans)
  • 'special procedures’ including intravenous urography (an exam to look at the kidneys, uterus and bladder)
  • DEXA scanning

Further patient information about these scans can be found on the Royal College of Radiologists patient information leaflets.

 

Appointments

Most appointments are offered between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday (except bank holidays).

For GP plain x-rays: once your GP has completed a manual request, you should go to x-ray 1 where you will be directed to the relevant area. There is an open-access system between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday (except bank holidays). The results/report are sent back to the GP usually within 10 days or less by post and in most cases electronically.

All other GP requests for examinations are posted to the department or handed in at x-ray reception. An appointment date and time will then be posted to you. The results/report will be sent back to your GP, usually within 10 days.

If you have attended an outpatient appointment and you are told by your doctor that you need a radiology examination (other than plain x-ray), you will sent an appointment through the post. Requests for plain x-rays can be done on the day (9am to 5pm).

Please note: some examinations need special preparation so when you come to the department please make sure that you tell us:

  • if you are pregnant (except for ultrasound scans)
  • if you have any allergies or asthma
  • if you are diabetic.

Your examination could be delayed or rebooked if we do not have this information.

  • fluoroscopic imaging (bariums, hysterosalpingograms)
  • intravenous urography
  • ultrasound general and gynaecological
  • ultrasound obstetric (Picton suite)
  • ultrasound pelvic booked appointments
  • computed tomography
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Nuclear Medicine (examinations at London Independent Hospital)
  • Dexa Scans (examinations at London Independent Hospital)

Central radiology appointment booking office: 020 8510 7108
Radiology enquiries: 020 8510 7375/7848  
Admin and clerical lead:  020 8510 7760

If you are unable to attend an appointment please let us know, as this will reduce the waiting time for other patients. 

Locations

Services are available from 9am to 5pm unless otherwise stated.

All patients- please report to X-ray 1 Reception in order to check in, do not go directly to X-ray 2 as there is no receptionist.

X-ray 1 (ground floor, grey corridor)

  • patients with booked radiology appointments need to register at x-ray 1 and will be directed to the relevant area
  • x-ray outpatients
  • x-ray GP (8am to 5pm)
  • MRI scanning
  • general ultrasound
  • gynaecological (pelvic) ultrasound. 

X-ray 2 (ground floor, where blue and green corridors meet)

  • A&E (24-hour), inpatient (24-hour)
  • fluoroscopic imaging (barium, HSG, video fluoroscopy and pain clinic)
  • intravenous urography
  • CT scanning
  • breast imaging/mammography
  • DEXA Scanning

Picton suite (second floor, above delivery suite)

  • obstetric ultrasound
  • day stay theatres - endoscopy (ERCPs)

Day stay theatres

  • endoscopy (ERCPs and endoscopic ultrasound)

Procedures

Fluoroscopy: an imaging method, which uses ionising radiation but the images are viewed on a television monitor during the examination. Barium examinations are a common test using this method which shows up the digestive system with the use of a liquid called barium. Manufacturers have made numerous attempts to make the barium drink more palatable. The mild flavouring we use has been tested and was chosen as the favourite flavour.

Barium sulfate is by nature a heavy compound. The barium we give you is mixed by a precise measurement of barium and water so that the density will be appropriate for your examination. If the mixture is too thin it will not coat the lining of the stomach and intestine, and would therefore not be of any use in demonstrating the bowel.

Angiography: allows doctors to see inside the body's blood vessels by introducing a very thin tube (catheter), injecting a dye into the tube and then taking images under fluoroscopic control. This is useful for finding various irregularities or blockages that can affect the heart and arteries.

Mammography/breast imaging: breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women and is much more treatable when detected at an early stage. To enable early detection, breast problems are investigated using a very accurate x-ray technique known as mammography or by using ultrasound. The radiographers who perform breast imaging are referred to as mammographers and are specially selected and trained due to the sensitive nature of their job.

Computed tomography (CT): commonly known as "CAT scans", CT is a technique that uses x-rays to take multiple cross-sectional images through the body. CT is a very useful technique that can image any part of your body. It is often used to identify diseased organs and to plan surgery.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): commonly known as "MRI," this is a technique that uses radio waves within magnetic field to take multiple cross-sectional images of the body. MRI is often used to look at soft tissue structures such as the brain, spine and our joints. The magnetic field used within the machine is so powerful that all patients must remove any metal objects before they enter the scanner.

Nuclear medicine: this refers to a technique that shows how your internal organs are functioning. Nuclear medicine does this by using a "gamma camera" to take pictures of small amounts of radioactive materials that are injected into your blood stream. Although this sounds dangerous, the materials decay rapidly, so they are out of your system in a matter of hours and total radiation dose is small.

Ultrasound: uses high-frequency sound waves to create images from inside the body on a television monitor. The principle is very similar to the sonar by which dolphins, bats and submarines navigate. Ultrasound is commonly used to take pictures of soft tissues in your abdomen and blood vessels, and because it does not involve the use of radiation, it is widely used to take pictures during pregnancy.

DEXA scanning: DEXA scan is a special type of X-ray that measures bone mineral density (BMD). DEXA stands for "dual energy X-ray absorptiometry". This type of scan is also often known as DXA, or "dual X-ray absorptiometry". It's also sometimes referred to as a bone density scan or a bone densitometry scan. DEXA scans are often used to diagnose osteoporosis (when the bones become weak and fragile, and are more likely to break). They can also be used to assess the risk of osteoporosis developing in women aged over 50 and in men over 60.

As well as being quick and painless, a DEXA scan is more effective than normal X-rays in identifying low bone mineral density.

FAQs

When is the best time to come in for a plain x-ray?
Currently between 9am and 10am.

How long will the results take to go back to the doctor who referred me for the examination?
Currently the maximum wait is one week after the examination.

What is radiology?
"Radiology" or "diagnostic radiology" refers to a number of medical imaging techniques that allow doctors to see inside a patient's body. Although the word "radiology" implies radiation, not all of the techniques actually use x-ray radiation (for example ultrasound and nuclear medicine).

What type of doctor will perform my examination?
Radiology examinations are undertaken by a radiologist, a radiographer or an assistant practitioner, who is specially trained to image and interpret the examination requested.

What is an x-ray examination?
An x-ray examination uses radiation to look at different parts of your body, which can then either be printed onto large film and viewed on a lightbox or viewed directly on a television monitor. The most common investigations using this method are x-rays of the chest, abdomen and bones.

Is radiation dangerous?
The radiation used to create medical images is called ionising radiation. There is a risk associated with the use of ionising radiation if used unnecessarily, however we ensure that the amount of radiation you receive is as low as possible so there is a minimum amount of risk to yourself. There are strict guidelines governing the use of ionising radiation, which we adhere to.

How much radiation will I receive?
Radiation exposure can be frightening to some people, however it is quite commonplace. Everyday we all receive a small amount of radiation, coming from outer space and the rocks beneath us, which are referred to as the background count. One chest x-ray, which has the lowest amount of radiation we use, is the same as receiving an extra week of natural background radiation.

If the radiation risk is so small, why does the radiographer step behind a shield?
The radiation dose for each exam is relatively small, but over time the dose can add up. Anyone who uses radiation regularly, such as radiographers, must take extra precautions. Usually this involves standing behind a lead screen or wearing a lead rubber apron.

What if I am pregnant?
If you are pregnant, or think that you might be pregnant you should always inform the radiographer or the person who is conducting the examination. This enables them to decide if the investigation is appropriate and will have a benefit. If it is necessary, a number of precautions can be taken to protect the foetus such as additional lead shielding and/or a limited examination.

Will the x-ray hurt?
There are no discernible sensations during the actual exposure to x-radiation. However, some of the positions the radiographer may instruct you to assume may aggravate or intensify existing pain. The radiographer may incorporate pillows, sponges and other positioning devices to alleviate as much discomfort as possible.

How long will the x-ray take?
The actual exposure takes only a fraction of a second. Most of the time is spent preparing you for the examination and then positioning the patient for different views. Once this is completed, it will only take a few minutes to develop and process the films.

Why did I wait longer than the person sitting next to me in the waiting room?
Different examinations are carried out in different rooms, but patients waiting for similar examinations are normally seen in order of appointment or in order of arrival.

Why do I have to change my clothes if x-rays can go through them?
The metal in belts, zips and bras show up on medical images, which can obscure relevant information. In examinations such as MRI, metal objects interfere with the field of the scanner which can be dangerous to all in the vicinity. Thick elastic bands and buttons can also be misinterpreted if imaged on a film, which would possibly require further investigation and an unnecessary radiation dose. Therefore by changing into a gown most of these items can be eliminated.

Can my friend accompany me into the exam room?
Our ionising radiation regulations only allow those people who are considered essential to the investigation to be in the room.

Can I accompany my child into the room?
Young children should always be accompanied by a parent or carer, however they are required to wear a protective lead gown at all times in the x-ray room. Older children may still require the presence of a parent or carer but this is usually agreed between the parent and the radiographer undertaking the examination. Brothers, sisters or friends of the child being examined are never allowed to accompany them into the x-ray room.

Can I wear my watch during the examination?
An x-ray will not harm a watch, however we will ask you to remove it if you are having a hand or wrist x-ray so that all the bones may be seen clearly.

Does the light from the x-ray machine have to stay on when you take an x-ray?
The light from the x-ray machine is used by the radiographer to see where the x-rays are going. This light is on a timer that will simply go off after a few seconds. It does not interfere with the X-ray.

Why did I have to hold my breath?
Patients are often asked to hold their breath, depending on the part of the body being examined. This improves the quality of the film produced and areas such as the chest or abdominal organs will not be moving and appear "blurred" on the films.

Why do extra films have to be taken?
Extra films are taken for many reasons. Often the radiographer or radiologist determines that more films are necessary after viewing your initial films. These additional films are most often needed for technical reasons and are to ensure that the relevant body part or organ is looked at properly.

Can you read my films for me? Did you see anything on my films?
The radiographer reviews each film for technical quality and ensures that optimal information is available. The medical report on your films is provided by a radiologist or reporting radiographer at a later time. This report is then passed onto your GP or referring clinician. 

The radiology results are only one part of your diagnosis; it is best that your GP or referring clinician provides you with the full diagnosis. Sometimes the radiologist may be able to provide you with a preliminary report, but the radiographer would not be able to give results unless specifically trained to do so.

Can you tell if the muscle or ligament is damaged on a normal x-ray?
Not normally. Most diagnostic x-rays can only show the bony structures within your body. Sometimes however, swelling and fluid in the joint spaces can also show on the films, but muscle and/or ligament damage are more often diagnosed during your physical examination.

Why do I have to wait for an appointment?
Some examinations require the use of specialist equipment and personnel, so it is necessary to schedule an appointment. We always try to keep waiting times as low as possible so you don't have to wait too long for any subsequent treatment.

What is x-ray?
The term x-ray "dye" is used to describe something called "contrast media", which is normally injected into the blood stream to examine vascular, billiary or renal structures. Contrast media has no colour and looks similar to water. It was originally referred to as "dye" simply because it shows up on x-ray film. However it does not make you change colour or radioactive!

How does this dye leave the body?
The "dye" injected into the blood stream is filtered out by the kidneys and mixes with your urine. When you empty your bladder you will not notice any discoloration as the "dye" is clear, like water. The body starts to remove the contrast media from the blood almost immediately after the injection.