For Patients

Preparing For Your Exam

Looking for answers to your medical diagnostic imaging questions? We can help!

Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging is here to give you and your doctor the answers you need to make the best decisions about your health care. And, complete clarity about the various types of medical imaging available.

Our team of board-certified radiologists, technologists and support staff knows that this can be a stressful time for you. You want and deserve answers as soon as possible.

We use advanced medical imaging technology to help you and your doctor can get the answers you need quickly and safely. We do this by making sure you’re at the center of everything we do at Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging.

Magnetic resonance imaging — which is more commonly known as an MRI — is a safe and painless way for you and your doctor to get a really detailed picture of your organs and other structures inside your body.

An MRI scan creates a 3D picture of the inside of your body. Because these images include details of softer tissues, MRI is often used to look for disease or infection, examine your organs and check for soft-tissue damage in your joints throughout your body — from your head to your toes.

When you choose Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging for your MRI imaging center and services, you can rest easy knowing your MRI results will be evaluated by a radiologist with specialty training directly related to your exam. Your MRI will help you and your doctor get answers about what is going on inside you and make a plan for treatment.

How MRI works

MRI uses a strong magnetic field to temporarily line up the protons in the hydrogen atoms in your body. The MRI machine will send specially tuned radio wave pulses to the area being imaged.

How those radio waves bounce — or resonate — off your hydrogen atoms is interpreted by a computer. The computer turns this information into highly detailed images of the inside of your body.

The images are taken in layers, almost like really thin slices of bread. The slices can even be taken in any direction. This helps your radiologist examine the body part being evaluated in extremely great detail to make an accurate diagnosis.

What and who it’s used for

Because MRI creates a very detailed picture without using ionizing radiation, it can be used to image many areas of the body. It’s also safe for repeated images.

Some of the most common MRIs Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging have done include:

  • Brain and spine
  • Joints and extremeties
  • Abdominal and pelvic organs
  • Blood vessels

Most people, even pregnant women, are able to have an MRI. If you have an implanted device — such as a pacemaker — or other metal in your body, a CT exam would be your safest alternative.

As with any medical imaging, your doctor can talk in detail with you about any concerns you have. Feel free to call Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging with your questions at 360-255-3660.

How to prepare for an MRI

Because MRI uses an incredibly strong magnet, it’s vital that you let your doctor as well as Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging know if you have any metal implants or medical devices in your body. These might include:

  • Pacemaker, artificial heart valve or stent
  • Screws, plates, staples or pins
  • Artificial limbs or joints
  • Nerve stimulators

An MRI exam cannot be used with certain types of implants, so it is important you speak with us and the doctor who ordered your MRI so we can work together to find out if MRI is right for you.

Also stop and think: Do you have any other foreign metal in your body? Maybe shrapnel or a long-lost BB? Let us know.

Any metal on your body or clothing will be pulled — hard — by the MRI magnet as soon as you enter the room. It’s critically important to remove all metal before you even enter the room. This includes:

  • Jewelry, watches and body piercings
  • Removable dental work
  • Hair pins, clasps and bungies that have metal clips
  • Clothing with metal zippers, rivets or charms
  • Pens, coins and knives from pockets
  • Eyeglasses and hearing aids

As with any medical exam, it’s best to leave your valuables at home.

For most MRIs you can eat, drink and take your normal medication on the day of your imaging procedure. If we need you to do anything special to prepare for your exam, we will let you know.

What to expect

Before your MRI at Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging, we’ll make sure you don’t have any metal on your body or clothing. We have gowns you can use if necessary.

The MRI machine looks like a tube. You’ll lie down on the MRI table, which will slide into the tube, which contains the magnet.

If you have any concerns about tight spaces, let us know right away. We are happy to talk to you in detail about what to expect. You can arrange to see the MRI room in advance. We will do everything we can to ease your worries.

Depending on the type and location of your MRI, your doctor may ask for images using contrast. Contrast is a safe material — basically a dye — delivered intravenously. It is a diluted solution of gadolinium that highlights disease or abnormalities.

If your doctor has ordered images with contrast, you may feel a little prick as your IV gets started. Nothing else with an MRI is painful.

Before your MRI, one end of your body will be moved into the tube. Which end depends on the type of MRI exam.

As the MRI begins, you’ll hear some thumping. This is the magnet doing its work. It’s important that you hold very still.

MRI involves a series of imaging procedures. Your MRI technologist will be able to speak to you through an intercom between the sections of your MRI. You can even request music to listen to during the MRI.

MRI can take 30 minutes or longer, depending on the type of images needed. It’s important to us that you’re as comfortable as possible. Let us know if you need a blanket or a cushion.

After your MRI

Once the MRI machine has done its job, you’ll be able to head home right away. In the meantime, a specially trained Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging radiologist will review the images created by the MRI computer. They’ll examine each of the many layers of your MRI scan and create a results report that will be sent to your doctor.

Your provider will follow up with you about anything that was found and if any treatment or additional imaging is needed.

At any point during this process, you’re welcome to contact Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging at (360) 255-6330 with any questions or concerns you have.

Computed tomography — more commonly called CT or CAT scan — is an advanced form of X-ray imaging that uses a computer to combine many X-rays into one detailed image to provide information on bones and soft tissues.

What is a CT Scan? How Do CT Scans Work?

As you pass through the ring of the CT scanner, it uses X-rays to take images of your body. A computer reconstructs the data into detailed images via computed tomography. At Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging, the images are taken on a 64-slice scanner, which means the CT scan procedure and exam is quicker and produces the highest quality images available — even pictures of your heart. Our scanner also comes with advanced technology that automatically minimizes radiation dose.

What you need to know about CT

Wondering what does a CT scan show? Well, the detailed images created by CT can help you and your doctor get a much better picture of your injury or disease. Using these layers, our trained radiologists can see greater detail, like the angles of a fracture or the size and shape of a mass or stone.

One of the advantages of CT is how quickly it creates this level of detail. Depending on the type of image your doctor has requested, your imaging may include contrast. This special material is swallowed or delivered to your vein through an IV. The CT machine will identify the contrast, which defines and highlights different structures and any abnormalities.

CT can be used for images of any body part, including bones and joints, chest, abdomen, pelvis, and the brain.

No matter which area of your body requires imaging, it’s important that you let Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging know if:

  • You have any implants, body piercings or other metal that might get in the way of your image
  • You are or might be pregnant
  • If you have a condition like diabetes that affects your ability to fast before your scan
  • If your doctor has ordered your CT with contrast, let us know if you have any history of iodine sensitivity or allergy to imaging contrast.

What to expect during your CT appointment

As with any medical imaging, it’s a good idea to leave your valuables at home when you come for your CT. It’s best to not wear jewelry or any other metal during your CT to ensure nothing blocks your image.

We invite you to wear comfortable clothing. If at all possible, we’ll let you stay in your own clothes for your scan.

If your CT includes contrast, you may have to come to Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging for the contrast a bit ahead of your actual scan. You’re welcome to bring a book or something else to do while you wait.

When it’s time for your CT, you’ll lie down on a table. The CT machine looks like a big donut. During your scan it may move around you. Most scans are less than sixty seconds.

After your CT

If you had contrast for your exam, it will pass through your system harmlessly over the next day or so. In the meantime, your radiologist will look through your CT image carefully and write a report with all the findings. That report is sent very shortly to the health care provider who ordered your CT. Your doctor will go over the results with you and help you plan treatment or next steps if necessary.

At any point during this process, you’re welcome to contact Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging at (360) 255-6330 with any questions or concerns you have.

You may think ultrasounds are just for pregnant women. While fetal, abdominal ultrasounds are a routine medical imaging exam that allows doctors to check on babies’ health before they are born, ultrasound is also used for many other reasons.

Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of your organs, blood vessels, and other structures inside your body. Because ultrasound is fast and does not use ionizing radiation, it’s completely safe. This makes ultrasound a preferred imaging option for children and babies in particular.

How ultrasound works

Ultrasound uses a small tool called a transducer to send high-frequency sound waves into an area of your body. The transducer also receives the sound waves as they bounce back. The ultrasound imaging machine interprets those sound wave echoes to create an image of your internal organs and tissues.

Ultrasound transducers come in different shapes depending on which part of your body needs to be imaged. Most are just small rectangles.

Some transducers provide Doppler ultrasound. This type of ultrasound measures the pitch of the ultrasound waves, which allows us to check how blood is flowing in your veins and arteries. Doppler ultrasound can also check your baby’s blood flow during your pregnancy.

How ultrasound is used

Ultrasound is a safe and easy way to take a look at your organs and internal tissues. The sound waves of ultrasound respond differently to fluid than to tissue. This means ultrasound can create a different image than other kinds of medical images.

Using ultrasound, your radiology technologist can measure the size of your internal organs. Many options imaging options exist such as a thyroid ultrasound or liver ultrasound. We can also get a peek at your kidneys and ovaries. This gives us a great look for such common occurrences like kidney or gallbladder stones. Ultrasound can even measure the walls of your heart.

Because ultrasound isn’t good at “seeing” air or bone, it’s sometimes used together with X-ray or other medical images to give you and your health care provider a more complete look inside your body.

Most pregnant women have one or more ultrasounds during pregnancy. Ultrasound is completely safe for your growing baby.

A fetal ultrasound gives you and your doctor a chance to check on how your baby is growing and developing. If you wish, your diagnostic medical sonographer can usually reveal your baby’s gender too.

What to expect during your ultrasound

For most ultrasounds, you won’t have to change into a gown. If you need to change, we’ll supply the gown for you. It’s best if you leave your valuables at home.

During the ultrasound, you’ll lie down on an exam table. Your diagnostic medical sonographer, who is specially trained in ultrasound, will put a special water-based gel on your skin so the sound waves move into your body smoothly. Then they’ll move the ultrasound transducer — usually about the size and shape of a TV remote — across your skin in the area being imaged.

The technician will make notes in a computer as they take measurements of different organs. This doesn’t mean they found something worrisome.

If you’re having an ultrasound of your baby during pregnancy, your technologist will be able to point out different parts of your baby. You may even see your baby moving around. Some babies are even sucking their thumbs during their “photo shoot.”

After your ultrasound

After your ultrasound is complete, your medical images will be carefully reviewed by a Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging radiologist — a doctor specially trained in how to interpret medical images including ultrasounds.

In some cases, your radiologist will speak to you after your exam. Most often, your radiologist will generate a report for your primary care doctor or other referring provider.

That way, your regular doctor can discuss any findings in detail with you and make a plan to follow up or treat anything discovered during your ultrasound.

At any point during this process, you’re welcome to contact our ultrasound Bellingham, WA Advanced Medical Imaging office at (360) 255-6330 with any questions or concerns you may have. 

One of the most common medical imaging exams at Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging is X-ray. Painless and fairly quick, X-rays give you and your health care provider a look inside your body. You’ve likely had X-rays of your teeth at the dentist. Body X-rays are very similar.

X-rays are a simple, noninvasive and quick way to get a look inside your body. They can help your X ray clinic’s radiologist spot broken bones, foreign objects and even disease in certain parts of your body.

What is an X-Ray? How do X-rays Work?

X-rays use a tiny bit of radiation to provide images of inside your body. As the radiation passes through your body, denser tissue (like bones) block the radiation, while softer tissue (like skin) does not. A digital X-ray sensor captures the X-rays that pass through, leaving an image that can show bone fractures, foreign objects, organ abnormalities and more.

Even though you’ve heard radiation is dangerous, rest easy. Medical imaging X-ray uses very small amounts of radiation, similar to levels we all experience from the sun and natural substances in the ground. In fact, most X-rays have lower radiation levels than a cross-country airplane flight. Because the levels are so low, the benefits most often outweigh the risk. So, no, there’s no need to worry when getting a chest X-ray or having it done on other, sensitive areas of the body.

Because fetal cells are dividing at such a rapid rate, fetuses may be more susceptible to radiation than you are. Be sure to let us know if you’re pregnant. We will talk with you about your options and work to add shielding for your abdominal area if you need X-ray imaging.

What to expect during your X-ray

When your provider refers you for an X-ray at Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging, you can be seen on a walk-in basis.

We recommend you leave valuables, including jewelry, at home. Plan to arrive a few minutes before your appointment so we can go over any questions you have.

Depending on which part of your body needs to be X-rayed, you may need to change into a gown, which we will provide. Whenever possible, we let you stay in your own clothes.

You may also need to remove body jewelry if it’s near the part of your body we need to X-ray.

Our technologist will help you get positioned for your X-ray. Then they’ll move the X-ray machine into the right position for the X-ray you need.

If more than one image is needed, your technologist may help you reposition for a different angle. Let us know if we can help make you more comfortable as we get you in place. You won’t be able to feel the X-ray itself.

What is fluoroscopy and how does it work

While standard X-ray takes photos, fluoroscopy gives you and your doctor an X-ray video of what’s going on inside you.

Fluoroscopy can be used to find disease in the gastrointestinal tract — like your throat, stomach and intestines — by drinking a special oral contrast that can be seen with the X-rays. It can also help guide injections into your joints, called arthrography.

One type of fluoroscopy, called a hysterosalpingogram, produces a detailed image of your uterus and fallopian tubes. This can identify blockages in the fallopian tubes, usually due to scarring, that may make it difficult for patients to become pregnant.

Before fluoroscopy, you may have to eat or drink differently. We’ll let you know any instructions before your appointment.

If your scan will use contrast — a type of dye that is swallowed or given intravenously — you may be scheduled to arrive well before your actual fluoroscopy imaging so your body has time to process the contrast before this specialized X-ray begins.

After your fluoroscopy, the contrast will pass harmlessly through your body in a day or so.

As with X-ray, be sure to let your prescribing doctor as well as our staff know if you are or might be pregnant or have any medical conditions that might be impacted by fasting before your appointment.

If you’re scheduled to have contrast included in your fluoroscopy visit, we’ll need to know if you’ve ever had a reaction to contrast or have a sensitivity to iodine.

After your X-ray

Your X-ray films will be reviewed by a Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging radiologist specially trained to interpret your results.

Your radiologist will write a report and send the information back to your primary care physician or the health care provider who referred you for an X-ray. That way, your provider can follow up with you about any treatment that you may need or if you need any further images.

Whatever brings you to Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging for an X-ray, please know we are here to answer your questions and do anything we can to help your imaging exam be comfortable and as easy as possible for you.

At any point during this process, you’re welcome to contact Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging at (360) 255-6330 with any questions or concerns you have.

New Patient Forms

When you make your appointment, we’ll be happy to let you know which patient forms, and medical consent forms, are needed for your particular exam.

If you would like to save some time at our office, you may print and fill out the specific forms we mentioned. Then you can bring them with you for your exam.

We also have the forms you need in our office. If you would rather fill them out with us, just arrive a few minutes before your scheduled medical imaging.

MRI Screening Forms

Work-Related Injury Forms

Workers Compensation

(if your exam is for a work-related injury)

Medical Records

Your medical record is maintained in a strict, confidential manner as required by state and federal laws. We will not release information contained in your medical record without your written authorization or as permitted by law.

Authorization to Release Records

(to release your Bellingham Advanced
Medical Imaging Records)

Records Request

(when we need to request your medical
records from another provider)

Images and Reports

For a copy of your images and reports on a disk, please contact our Medical Records department at 360-255-6330. To help expedite the process, our medical release form can be printed out and completed prior to your visit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Financial Services

Billing questions or payments? Call our billing specialists at (360) 255-6330.

You probably want to know what your medical imaging is going to cost. We get it.

Our financial services team is here to help you navigate the often-confusing world of health insurance coverage. We also work with people who pay cash for their medical care.

We will help you determine how much your insurance will cover and try to estimate how much you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

It’s hard to deal with medical bills. The Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging financial services team is dedicated to helping you afford the imaging you need. Ways to pay include:

 

  • FSA/HSA: Use funds from your flexible savings account or health savings account.
  • Cash pay: Patients without insurance can inquire about our cash-pay price and prepay discount.
  • Payment plans: We work with you and your specific circumstances to help you pay your bill over time, but please contact us right away — if your bill goes to collections, our options are limited.
  • Recurring billing: We can split your payments up and bill your credit card monthly.

Workers Compensation/Automobile Insurance

If your imaging is needed due to a car accident or an accident at work, workers compensation or automobile insurance may be involved. Often these types of claims have additional paperwork needed.

Please let us know right away that your injury is related to a work or car accident so we can help work with your insurance claim.

Health Insurance

In addition to working with workers compensation and automobile insurance claims, we are an in-network provider for many major health insurance plans, including but not limited to:

 

If your health insurance plan isn’t listed, we will still bill your insurance. Your benefits may be different for an out-of-network provider.

We also work with Medicare and Apple Health (Medicaid) patients.

Whatever form of insurance you have, please bring your insurance ID card(s) and a photo ID (driver’s license preferred) to your appointment.

Sometimes your insurance will require a pre-authorization for your medical imaging. Your prescribing doctor will likely begin this process, but our pre-authorization team will double check your claim before your imaging exam. This may impact your scheduling  — we will keep working with you to keep you updated throughout the process.

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