Our specialist department uses cutting-edge equipment for hugely diverse examination procedures. The latest technology means that images can be optimised on a computer, assessed by specialists, stored in a digital archive of images, and reused later.
Magnetic resonance imaging
In magnetic resonance imaging, cross-section images of the body are taken. However, in contrast to computed tomography, no x-rays are used. The device creates a constant, very strong magnetic field, which does not cause any serious health risks. For your safety, we ask that you fill out a questionnaire on implants and foreign objects before the examination. Please contact us if you have any questions before your appointment. As you need to leave all metal objects in the cubicle when you have your examination, it’s best to leave jewellery at home. Very loud banging noises (similar to a jackhammer) occur during the examination; however, we will provide you with headphones or hearing protection. You are also welcome to bring your own music with you (on CD or USB stick). Depending on the specific situation, it may also be necessary to produce images following the intravenous administration of a contrast agent. The MRI examination will last 30–90 minutes depending on the region(s) of the body that are being examined. It is important that you remain very still throughout.
In computed tomography, x-rays are used to create cross-section images (cross-section) of your body. This method of examination is particularly well-suited for gaining a more precise assessment of osseous structures, internal organs, and the lungs. You will be asked to fast in advance of certain examinations, in particular on the abdomen. If your referring physician has already taken x-ray images, please bring these with you on the day of examination and provide them to us. When you register for the x-ray, you will be provided with a questionnaire so that we can clarify allergies and renal problems in advance. In certain situations, it will also be necessary to intravenously inject a contrasting agent. If you have known allergies, it is therefore important that you inform us of these as early as possible (using the questionnaire). In order to achieve the best possible results from the examination, the images will be reviewed by our radiologist to determine whether additional imaging is required. It is important that you remain still during this time, but inform us immediately if you experience any discomfort. The examination lasts between 10 and 30 minutes, and it may be that you will need to drink a diluted contrast agent approximately 60 minutes in advance. However this will be taken into account when your appointment is scheduled.
Bone density measurement (DEXA)
The bone density measurement determines the mineral content of bones using the DEXA procedure, a special type of x-ray examination. High-energy x-ray radiation permeates the bones, and weakens as it does so. The thicker the bones – i.e. the greater the bone mass – the more dramatic the weakening of radiation seen in the result. This beam variation can be measured and assessed with the aid of computers. It immediately provides information on bone density. As a rule, the lumbar spine, one hip and one lower arm are measured in each case. The examination itself generally lasts 15–20 minutes. You should stay very still throughout, and breathe normally. However, special preparation is not required.
A special detector and an innovative, linear respiratory technique enable high-quality images to be produced at two levels simultaneously. The radiation exposure is ten times greater than with traditional x-ray equipment. Three-dimensional whole-body images can be computed. The examination is performed with the patient standing, or on a chair specially developed at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre. The imaging time for examination of the entire body lasts less than 20 seconds.
In fluoroscopy examinations, the region of the body to be examined is imaged with the use of x-ray radiation in real-time (live). At the SPC, this is performed with the patient in a horizontal position. Dynamic examinations such as an oesophageal porridge swallow, can also be easily performed. At the SPC, arthographies for MRI are performed under fluoroscopy. In addition, the joint to be treated (e.g. the shoulder) is disinfected and a sterile cover is added. After this, the radiologist uses a thin needle to inject contrasting agent into the joint. You may feel slightly uncomfortable pressure in the joint, but this will quickly go away again. Depending on the distribution of the contrasting agent, the MRI also enables a more precise assessment to be made of whether there is an injury in the joint (torn ligament). The examination lasts 5–10 minutes.
Direct digital x-ray
Conventional x-rays enable imaging of various regions of the body, and are particularly suited to rapid outline diagnosis. There is a direct digital x-ray system at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre which offers a lower dose of radiation compared to traditional, conventional x-rays. Similarly, it is no longer necessary to develop the images – instead, they are visible on the monitor directly after they are taken, and can therefore also be stored digitally in the system. The images are produced with the patient in a standing, horizontal or seated position, and the process only takes a few minutes. For certain imaging instances, our patients who use wheelchairs will need to switch to the special (almost) metal-free x-ray wheelchair (see image).
Ultrasound examination, also referred to as sonography, is an imaging procedure in which a probe (sonic head) is used to enable sound waves to be sent into the region of the body to be examined, reflected there, and received again. Special techniques mean that the flow in blood vessels can also be rendered. This method works without x-ray radiation and is therefore suitable for pregnant patients and children. In the event of examinations of the abdomen, you should fast for six hours before the examination, and have a full bladder. You may continue to take your medications as usual with a glass of still water. The examination lasts approximately 15–30 minutes.