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Need directions to a department or clinic? Want to visit a patient? We're here to help!

Use our "Virtual Information Desk", accessible at the top of any page on our website by clicking on this Visitor Information Panel icon icon, to help answer common questions or help you find your way before and during your hospital visit.

Of course, you can visit our onsite main Information Desk located at the Melnyk Entrance (off of the Queensway) which is open from 7am to 9pm, Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 9pm Weekends and Holidays. Feel free to call us at 416-530-6000.

Find us at St. Joes
St. Joseph's Health Centre Toronto

Diagnostic Imaging

diagnostic imaging at St. Joe'sOur Diagnostic Imaging department offers a full range of diagnostic and therapeutic services from X-rays to MRIs, mammography and CT scans and ultrasounds. We use the latest methods and modern technology and machines that help your care team diagnose and create a care plan for you and your family.

Fast, accurate diagnoses start in our fully digital environment making our Health Centre one of the shortest wait times in the GTA from physician referral to exam completion. This means our patients can have their treatment begin as quickly as possible.

Our programs are accredited through the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences (this will open in a new tab) and the University of Toronto (this will open in a new tab) and we support student clinical placements from a variety of academic institutions. Mammography is accredited by the Canadian Association of Radiologists.

Our team of highly trained professionals are here to make our patients and their families feel comfortable and safe during their tests, creating a patient-centered experience for everyone who is in our care.

Patient information and requisition forms

 

Your CT scan or exam will be performed by a registered Medical Radiation Technologist (MRT) with a specialty in CT.   It is helpful if you bring a list of all your medications with you on the day of your appointment. Depending on the type of exam, you may be asked to follow specific preparation instructions.

An Appointment Confirmation Letter will be mailed to you two weeks prior to your CT exam.  Please ensure that you follow the instructions listed on this letter.  It will tell you when to arrive, where to go for your appointment and provide any necessary preparation instructions to be followed.

When you arrive for your appointment, the Care Team will explain the procedure and may ask you some questions to help provide the best care possible.

Usually very little preparation is required for a CT exam. It depends on which part of your body is to be scanned. You will be given instructions by the CT department appropriate for the exam to be done.

  • Metal objects, including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins, may affect the CT images and should be left at home or removed prior to your exam.
  • You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work. Women will be asked to remove bras containing metal underwire.
  • You may be asked to remove any piercings, if possible.You may be asked not to eat or drink for a few hours before your scan – depending on the part of your body to be scanned.
  • If you need an injection of contrast, as described below, it may be necessary to stop certain medications after the procedure. This may apply to patients taking Metformin, a medicine used to treat diabetes. If you are taking this medication your doctor should give you instructions about what to do. You should inform your doctor of all medications you are taking and if you have any allergies.
  • If you have a known allergy to contrast material, or “dye,” your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. These medications generally need to be taken 12 hours prior to administration of contrast material. To avoid unnecessary delays, contact your doctor before the day of your exam.
  • Also inform your doctor of any recent illnesses or other medical conditions and whether you have a history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes or kidney disease. Any of these conditions may increase the risk of an unusual adverse effect. Women should always inform their doctor and the CT technologist if there is any possibility that they may be pregnant.

In some situations, depending on what part of the body is being scanned, one of the following may be needed. This helps to give better contrast between different organs and tissues on the scan pictures.

  • For abdominal and pelvic scans you may be asked to have a special drink 1 – 2 hours before the exam. This helps to show up the stomach and bowel more clearly.
  • For pelvic scans, some fluid may be put into your back passage (rectum).
  • Sometimes a dye (contrast agent) is injected into the bloodstream via a vein in your arm; this may require an IV insertion prior to the test. The dye may give you a flushing feeling and an odd taste in your mouth, which soon goes away.
  • For special procedures like Colonography, Enterography, Urogram, Cardiac CT and Lung Biopsy please refer to our forms section.

Your CT exam results will be sent to your referring doctor within 7 to 10 days.  Please call your doctor to ensure a follow-up appointment has been made to get your results.

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It makes use of a strong magnetic field as well as radio frequencies to generate detailed images of specific parts of the body.

When a person is inside the scanner bore, the numerous protons within the body align with the direction of the scanner’s magnetic field. The scanner sends specific radio frequencies to specific locations of the body to offset the spin direction of the protons in that part of the body. As the protons try to realign with the scanner’s magnetic field, signals are generated. The scanner receives the signals, which are in turn analyzed by the computer and detailed images are generated.

What to expect during your visit in MRI

The MRI Technologist will go through some screening questions with you to make sure it’s safe for you to have the exam.  Then, you will be asked to change into a patient gown and lock your belongings in a locker.  For exams that require Gadolinium contrast injection, the technologist will start an intravenous in your arm or hand before the exam starts.

In the scan room, you will be instructed to put ear plugs in your ears for hearing protection.  Our scanner is a long tunnel that is open at both ends.  There is light in the scanner bore and plenty of air circulation.  Once the technologist has properly positioned you on the exam table, the technologist will raise the table up and slide you slowly into the tunnel (head first or feet first depending on the area to be scanned).  You will be given an emergency buzzer in your hand which you can squeeze when you need the technologist to stop the exam and bring you out for any reason.

When the scanner is taking images, it makes loud knocking noises.  It is essential that you remain entirely still throughout the exam in order for us to take high quality images for diagnosis.  The technologist will be able to communicate with you through the intercom system in between scans.

One of our radiologists will interpret the images obtained from the MRI exam and the generated report will be sent to your referring physician in 7 to 10 days.

An Appointment Confirmation Letter will be mailed to you two weeks prior to your MRI exam.  Please ensure that you follow the instructions listed on this letter.  It will tell you when to arrive, where to go for your appointment and provide any necessary preparation instructions to be followed.

What to bring

  • Please bring your health card with you and register at the Diagnostic Imaging Registration desk at least 30 minutes before your exam time. For patients having MR Arthrogram or MR Enterography please refer to the arrival time on the appointment letter.
  • We will be asking questions about your clinical history so please make sure you have information about all previous surgeries, implants, allergies and medications you are taking.
  • If you are claustrophobic or don’t like being in small spaces and need to take sedation prior to your exam, please obtain the prescription from your referring doctor. Follow the instructions from your referring doctor about the time and dose for the sedation.  If you were not told when to take the sedation, you may take it 30 minutes prior to exam time.  Please beware that you MUST have an adult who can bring you home and you MUST NOT drive after taking sedation.

What NOT to bring / to do

  • Please leave all valuable items at home if possible. You will be expected to remove all jewelry and change into a patient gown for the exam. All your belongings will be locked in one of the lockers in the change room.
  • It is the best not to wear any makeup to the exam. If you are having a MRI exam of the brain, you may be asked to remove your makeup prior to your exam.
  • MRI of the abdomen or pelvis: If you’re having a MRI exam of the abdomen or pelvis, please do not eat or drink anything 4 to 6 hours before your exam. Taking your medication with small amount of water is acceptable.  For those having MR Enterography, please follow the instructions on the information sheet provided to you.

Your MRI exam results will be sent to your referring doctor within 7 to 10 days.  Please call your doctor to ensure a follow-up appointment has been made to get your results.

MRI Q&A

Q:  How strong is the magnetic field in MRI?

A:  Very strong. For instance, the MRI scanner at SJHC is 1.5 tesla, which equals to 30,000 times the strength of the magnetic field of the Earth.

Q:  Is the magnetic field gone when the scanner is not in use? How about when the scanner is shut down?

A:  Absolutely not. The magnetic field is always on, even when the scanner is not in use or when the scanner is shut down.

Q:  Can I have a MRI exam if I have a metallic implant in me?

A:  It depends on what kind of implant it is. In fact, many metallic implants such as orthopaedic prostheses (hip and knee replacements) and cardiac stents are safe for a MRI exam 6 weeks post-surgery. On the other hand, implants like cardiac pacemakers and neuro-stimulators are contraindicated for MRI. The bottom line is you should provide detailed information about your implants on the MRI screening form so the MRI Technologists can determine whether it is safe for you to have the exam before your appointment.(Table 1)

Q:  Does MRI generate ionizing radiation like X-Ray?

A:  No. There is no ionizing radiation in MRI.

Q:  How long does an MRI exam take?

A:  An average MRI exam takes around 30 to 45 minutes. Occasionally, some more complicated exams may take over an hour.

Q:  Why does the MRI scanner make loud noises when it is scanning?

A:  When the scanner is taking images, electric currents are run through coiled wires within the scanner to make small changes to the magnetic field. As current passes through, the coils expand and contract rapidly, making loud banging sounds.

Q:  Can I have my whole body scanned while I’m in the scanner?

A:  Not practically.  In MRI a specific camera (named “coil”) is used for each specific part of the body and only the area being covered by the camera is imaged during the exam.  For example, we typically image one knee at a time since the camera we use is surrounding only the knee of interest and a knee exam takes 25 to 30 minutes.

head-coil

Head Coil


Q:  How is MRI different from CT scan?

A:  Besides the fact that MRI doesn’t have ionizing radiation like CT, MRI also has superior contrast resolution when it comes to soft tissues like cartilages, tendons, muscles, blood vessels, spinal cord, brain and internal organs.  MRI is the modality of choice when it comes to the evaluation of musculoskeletal issues.  While CT is commonly used in initial screening for pathologies in the brain and many internal organs, MRI is useful for further characterization of known lesions or for more sensitive detection of pathologies like infection, inflammation and neoplasm when CT results are negative.

brain-mri-image

An image from Brain MRI

lumbar-spine-mri-image

An image from Lumbar Spine MRI

knee-mri-image

An image from Knee MRI

abdomen-mri-image

An image from Abdominal MRI

Nuclear Medicine offers specialized non-invasive medical procedures to diagnose or treat different diseases. Important diagnostic information is obtained by giving small amounts of radioactive pharmaceuticals called tracers to identify abnormalities. Nuclear Medicine is very sensitive and has the unique ability of identifying certain diseases at the earliest stages of progression as it looks at the body’s metabolism. Nuclear Medicine procedures have been performed safely for over 60 years, longer then MRI, CT or Ultrasound. Millions of Nuclear Medicine procedures are performed annually in North America alone.

How is a Nuclear Medicine procedure performed?

You will be given a very small amount of the radioactive pharmaceutical or tracer usually by having it injected into the vein but it can also be swallowed or inhaled depending on the procedure.  Tracers are safe and the amount of radiation is typically less than a CT scan. Afterwards, images are acquired on a Gamma camera. This camera looks similar to a CT scanner but instead of emitting x-rays it picks up the gamma rays coming from your body depending on where the injection went. The camera uses a crystal to map the distribution of the tracer within the body to create an image. A Nuclear Medicine Technologist will process these images which will then be interpreted by a Radiologist. The radiologist’s report will be sent to your referring physician.

How will I feel during or after my test?

There are no side effects from the tracer. The injection is usually done in the arm. The needle poke takes a few seconds and may feel like a mosquito bite. Very rarely patients report a brief metallic taste in their mouths during the injection. Most images involve lying still on an imaging bed for 10 to 45 minutes. The technologist will make every attempt to position you comfortably with supports and padding.

For most procedures, you will be able to resume your normal activities immediately following the test including driving and caring for your family. The tracer leaves your body quickly in your urine and stool and through natural decay. You can be around family members safely. Breast feeding should be stopped for 48 hours after most tests.

 

An Appointment Confirmation Letter will be mailed to you two weeks prior to your Nuclear Medicine exam.  Please ensure that you follow the instructions listed on this letter.  It will tell you when to arrive, where to go for your appointment and provide any necessary preparation instructions to be followed.

How should I prepare for my test?

  • Please call (416) 530-6056 if you have not received instructions or have any questions.
  • Please wear something comfortable on the day of your exam. You may also be asked to change into a hospital gown. Leave any jewelry at home.
  • Please bring a list of your medications with you for your appointment.
  • Bring your Health Card and register at the Diagnostic Imaging Registration Desk. After registering, the clerk will direct you to Waiting Area B.
  • When you arrive for your appointment, the Care Team will explain the procedure and ask you some questions to help provide the best care possible.
  • Please inform the technologists if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant or if you are breast feeding.
  • Please inform the technologists if you are travelling across the border or by plane following your exam. You may need a travel letter.

Your Nuclear Medicine exam results will be sent to your referring doctor within 7 to 10 days.  Please call your doctor to ensure a follow-up appointment has been made to get your results.

Diagnostic Ultrasound uses sound waves to examine organs, tissues and blood flow throughout the body.  Some of the types of ultrasounds that are performed in our department are obstetrical, breast, abdomen, musculoskeletal, pelvis, venous, arterial and ultrasound assisted biopsies.

A Sonographer will perform the ultrasound exam by asking you to lie on the imaging bed and then a small amount of heated ultrasound gel will be applied to the area of interest.  The gel is used to allow the sound waves to travel into the body and the transducer or camera is then used to obtain the images.

The ultrasound exam should not be painful and may take approximately 30 to 60 minutes.  Please allow for at least 2 hours of time in the Diagnostic Imaging Department. The Radiologist will interpret your ultrasound images and send the report to your referring physician.  The results of the ultrasound exam cannot be obtained from the Sonographer.

An Appointment Confirmation Letter will be mailed to you two weeks prior to your Ultrasound exam.  Please ensure that you follow the instructions listed on this letter.  It will explain when to arrive, where to go for your appointment and provide any necessary preparation instructions to be followed.

When you arrive for your appointment, the Sonographer will explain the Ultrasound exam and may ask you some questions to help provide the best care possible.

To help prepare you for your appointment, please see the patient preparation in the appointment confirmation letter that you received.

What to bring to your ultrasound appointment:

  • Proof of ID
  • Health card
  • Requisition forms if you were given a copy
  • List of medications (for Biopsy Ultrasound Exams only)

At the end of the ultrasound exam, for patients who are pregnant, your spouse, partner, family and/or friends will be welcomed into the scanning room to view the baby.

Your Ultrasound exam results will be sent to your referring doctor within 7 to 10 days.  Please call your doctor to ensure a follow-up appointment has been made to get your results.

There are no special instructions that need to be followed after an ultrasound exam unless a biopsy or aspiration is performed.  Please see the attached pamphlets if you are having a breast, prostate or thyroid biopsy

We provide several types of X-rays in our Diagaostic Imaging Department. Please select the test you are having from the list below to learn more about what to expect and how to prepare f or your appointment.

Bone Mineral Densitometry (BMD) testing

BMD testing is a painless, non-invasive procedure that utilizes low radiation exposure. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass leading to fragile bones and increased risk of fractures. Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent thief’ because bone loss occurs without symptoms unless one has a fracture. BMD testing measures bone loss due to osteoporosis and helps the patient and physician decide the risk of future fractures, determine the need for medical treatment and monitor the success of existing treatment.

An appointment confirmation letter will be mailed to you two weeks prior to your bone mineral density exam. Please ensure that you follow the instructions provided in the letter; it will tell you when to arrive, where to go for your appointment and provide any necessary preparation instructions to be followed.

It is helpful if you bring a list of all your medications with you on the day of your appointment.

When you arrive for your appointment, the care team will explain the procedure and may ask you some questions to help provide the best care possible. Prior to entering the BMD room, you will be asked to remove any clothing that has buttons, zippers, clips, metal or any material that may interfere with the results of your BMD test.

The technologist will weigh and measure you in the room and go over a questionnaire regarding your pertinent medical history.

The test involves lying on a table for several minutes while a small X-ray detector scans your hip(s) and lower spine. Measurements are made over the lumbar spine and upper part of your hip. The forearm may be scanned if the hip or lumbar spine is not possible. The bone density machine measures the amount of X-rays that pass through your bone, indicating how thick or thin they are.

Your bone mineral density exam results will be sent to your referring doctor within 7-10 days. Please call your doctor to ensure a follow-up appointment has been made to get your results.

Interventional Radiography (IR)

Interventional Radiography (IR) is a specialty within Diagnostic Imaging where minimally invasive image-guided procedures are performed to diagnose and treat diseases in every organ system. Many conditions that once required open surgery can now be treated non-surgically by interventional radiologists. By minimizing the physical trauma to the patient, non-surgical interventions can reduce infection rates and recovery time, as well as shorten hospital stays.

When you arrive for your appointment, the care team will explain the procedure and ask you some questions to help provide the best care possible. You will be required to sign a consent form prior to your procedure. If necessary, we have access to interpreter services which can be used to help explain the procedure as well answer any of your questions.

Please ensure that you follow the instructions provided in the appointment confirmation letter mailed to you two weeks prior to your exam or procedure. This letter will tell you when to arrive, where to go for your appointment and provide any necessary preparation instructions to be followed.

Your IR exam or procedure results will be sent to your referring doctor within 7-10 days. Please call your doctor to ensure a follow-up appointment has been made to get your results.

Mammography

Mammography is the process of using low-energy X-rays to examine the breast and is used as a diagnostic and/or screening tool. The goal of mammography is the early detection of breast cancer, typically through detection of characteristic masses and/or micro-calcifications. Mammography remains the best screening test for most women.

If you have had your previous breast imaging studies done elsewhere, we will require a copy of your studies prior to booking an appointment.

Mammography exams are booked appointment times. An appointment confirmation letter will be mailed to you prior to your exam. Please ensure that you follow the instructions provided in the letter; it will tell you when to arrive, where to go for your appointment and provide any necessary preparation instructions to be followed.

When you arrive for your appointment, the care team will explain the procedure and may ask you some questions to help provide the best care possible. Prior to entering the mammography room, you will be asked to remove all clothing from the waist up and put on a gown. It is important that you do not use deodorants, antiperspirants, body lotions or talcum powders the day of your exam. Metals in these products can show up on the X-ray picture. If you have used deodorants, antiperspirants, body lotions, or talcum powders, a wash cloth will be provided for you to remove the product(s).

A registered Medical Radiation Technologist (MRT) specializing in mammography will go over a questionnaire regarding your pertinent medical history once in the mammography room. For the exam, the MRT will place your breast on a special X-ray machine. A plastic plate will be pressed down slowly to flatten your breast and hold it in place for a few seconds. You will feel some pressure on your breast for a few seconds during the X-ray. Typically, four pictures are taken, two of each breast. The technologist will check the pictures to make sure they are high enough quality for the radiologist to read. If needed, the technologist will take additional pictures. Once the images are reviewed by the radiologist in detail, you may be called to return on a different day for additional imaging of your breast(s).

Your exam results will be sent to your referring doctor within 7-10 days. Please call your doctor to ensure a follow-up appointment has been made to get your results.

General radiography (X-ray) and fluoroscopy

X-ray is a form of electromagnetic radiation and it is used in general radiography and fluoroscopy to image the inside of the human body. The X-ray machine generates X-rays which have the energy to penetrate through the body and produce an image. Fluoroscopy is a specialized type of X-ray imaging that shows a continuous image on a monitor, much like a movie. It is used to diagnose or treat patients by displaying the movement of a body part or organ.

General radiography (X-ray) exams can be booked in advance, but are typically performed on a walk-in basis.

Fluoroscopy procedures require pre-booking and there may be preparation instructions to follow prior to the appointment day. These instructions will be sent to you in the mail prior to your appointment.

Please ensure that you follow the instructions provided in the appointment confirmation letter mailed to you two weeks prior to your pre-booked exam. This letter will tell you when to arrive, where to go for your appointment and provide any necessary preparation instructions to be followed.

When you arrive for your appointment, the care team will explain the procedure and may ask you some questions to help provide the best care possible. Many exams require removal of your clothes and changing into a gown to remove any items on your clothing or undergarments that may interfere with the imaging (i.e. buttons, clips, zippers, wire, etc). Such items can be seen on X-ray and may mimic pathology or obscure an area of interest. During an exam, you will be positioned so that the area of interest is located between a receptor/detector and the X-ray tube. We perform a number of different exams from head to toe, including specialized imaging for scoliosis and leg length. You may be asked to lie on the imaging table, sit or stand depending on the type of exam.

Your X-ray or fluoroscopy exam results will be sent to your referring doctor within 7-10 days. Please call your doctor to ensure a follow-up appointment has been made to get your results.

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