Internal organs like the kidneys can be assessed by ultrasound for swelling, abnormal masses and stones, using a probe on the outside of the body. Ultrasound of the prostate is usually done with an internal probe placed in the rectum, since the prostate lies immediately in front of the rectum, and at a distance from the body surface.
Bladder function can be assessed non-invasively with ultrasound and a urinary flow test that measures the rate of urine flow with a full bladder, the volume of urine passed and the volume left behind in the bladder.
More detailed examination can be done by computed tomography (CT) scan, which uses X-rays and may involve injection of a radiological contrast agent into a vein. In some situations, kidney function can be examined by nuclear renography, for which a small amount of a radioactive substance is injected into a vein. Bone scans similarly use a radioactive chemical, in this case targeting the bones to look for signs of cancer spread.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another means of imaging the urinary tract, including the kidneys, bladder and prostate, without using X-rays. It takes longer than CT scanning, and for the duration of the test the patient must lie still in a scanner which can quite noisy, and for some susceptible individuals claustrobic. MRI may require an injection of contrast material into the bloodstream, different from that used in CT scanning, and it provides quite different information from a CT scan.
When imaging tests are needed, the most appropriate tests will be discussed in detail with you.
For further advice on urological investigations, please call us on +44 (0)20 3651 6065 to book an appointment, with Mr. Mark Feneley at The London Clinic, 120 Harley Street, London, W1G 7JW.
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