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Diagnostic imaging

Preparation of diagnostic imaging

Due to the nature of emergency services, it is challenging to prepare for them. Most emergency testing happens during health crises, meaning that you likely won’t be able to do preparation beforehand.

However, it can be helpful to have an emergency preparedness plan in place even if you don’t expect to experience a serious health condition. This can include collecting vital information such as emergency contact information, insurance information, and lists of your current medications, allergies, and any conditions for which you are currently receiving treatment.

You should also know the location of your nearest urgent care and emergency treatment centers. That way, in the event of an actual emergency, you do not need to waste time trying to figure out where to go. 


Specific tests, such as ultrasounds, may be performed at the bedside. Other tests will likely require you to lie on a moving table or stand in front of an imaging device. Most imaging exams take just a few minutes to complete. MRIs can take from 30 to 60 minutes. 

Emergency radiology takes place in a hospital radiology department. A radiologic technologist will likely perform the procedure. An emergency radiologist will interpret the results for the doctor in charge of your care. The goal is to provide final results as quickly as possible to diagnose emergency conditions and guide treatment.

Imaging tests are not invasive, so there is generally no recovery time after these tests. If you receive IV contrast, your doctor will advise you about any aftercare requirements. 


The goal of emergency testing is to give your doctor an accurate picture of what’s happening in your body as soon as possible. Some tests, like x-ray imaging, provide nearly instant results. Other tests, such as those with contrast or that require lab testing, can take longer. Most diagnostic tests provide results within a few hours. 

Depending upon what your imaging tests reveal, you may be able to go home the same day, or you might need to stay in the hospital for extended treatment. 

Our caring providers at Dignity Health offer emergency radiology and diagnostic imaging as part of our emergency services.

How to identify a medical emergency

Emergency care is necessary for any condition that threatens life or limb. ERs are always open. Unlike your regular doctor’s office, emergency departments are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Emergency departments prioritize patients based on the severity of their symptoms and will admit critically ill or injured patients to the hospital for closer monitoring.

If you or someone you’re with is experiencing severe bleeding, a mental health crisis that threatens your health or the health of someone else, chest pain, signs of a stroke, or loss of consciousness, call 911 as soon as possible.

For conditions that need urgent attention, but aren’t immediately life-threatening, urgent care can provide same-day treatment when your primary care doctor isn’t available. Urgent care clinics treat the flu, earaches, rashes, urinary tract infections, minor bone fractures, bites, and small cuts that require stitches.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.