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Imaging

Royal Stoke

​​​​​​​​​Imaging is the term we use to describe the services we offer to our patients. Most patients, and indeed staff, still refer to the departments as X-ray, but we offer so much more than this. The range of different diagnostic tests we undertake includes those where no radiation is used at all, such as ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The Imaging Department provides a very comprehensive range of diagnostic and interventional services.

The imaging department is located on Lower Ground Floor 1 of Main Building. On arrival at the site, please park in the multi-storey car park, patients with blue badges can park in the disabled car park outside Main Entrance. If you have an Outpatient appointment, please check in using one of the screens in the atrium before decending one floor using either the lifts in the atrium or the stairs in the corridor to the right. The map below shows the layout of the Imaging department.

View our 360 degree tour of the department. The tour opens in a pop-up window, so if it doesn't appear when you click on it, please ensure you have allowed pop-up windows on your web browser.​

  • CT reception   01782 675800
  • MRI reception   01782 675800
  • Ultrasound reception   01782 675800
  • X-ray reception   01782 675800
  • X-ray helpdesk 01782 679285 

A barium enema is a procedure that is carried out using a special type of X-ray to examine the large bowel. Normal X-rays do not provide very good pictures of the bowel, so a substance called barium sulphate is used to produce a clearer picture. Barium sulphate is a fine, white, odourless powder that is insoluble and non-poisonous. It coats the inside of the bowel, making it easier to see on the X-rays. 


If examination of the large intestine (bowel) is necessary, the barium sulphate is put directly into the rectum via the back-passage (anus). This is called a barium enema. If, however, the upper gastrointestinal tract (oesophagus, stomach and small intestine) is to be investigated, the barium sulphate can be taken by mouth in a procedure known as a barium meal or barium swallow.

Using special liquids called 'contrast media', it is possible to visualise arteries and veins within the body. This work uses very specialised techniques and equipment. Interventional work is also carried out, such as the insertion of metal stents in areas of artery narrowing, or the insertion of coils into cerebral arteries. 

MRI uses magnets and radio waves to create an image of the body. Because of the magnetic field generated, it is not a suitable imaging technique for patients who have pacemakers or other pieces of 'metal' in their bodies. However, because it does not use ionising radiation and can create detailed images of soft tissue, it can be used for the detection of many diseases. 

An MRI scanner is like a short tunnel, (open at both ends), through which a motorised bed passes. During a scan you lie on the bed and a small 'receiving device' is placed behind, or around, the part of your body being scanned. You are then moved into the scanner tube, either head-first or feet-first, depending on which part of your body is being scanned. 

An MRI scan is painless. However, it is important to be as comfortable as possible during a scan, because you must keep the part of your body being scanned very still to avoid blurring the images. A typical scan lasts between 15-60 minutes, depending on the size of the area being scanned and how many 'pictures' are taken. 

The above video is for patients undergoing CT colonography only and does not represent all CT examinations.

When you have a CT scan, you will be required to lie on a motorised couch inside the scanning machine which looks like a giant doughnut. The scan may need a contrast dye or substance that improves the picture of certain tissues or blood vessels. This material may be swallowed, given as an enema or injected into the blood stream, depending on the part of your body that is to be scanned. Usually the scan is taken with you lying on your back, although sometimes you will be asked to lie on your side or your front. 

After each X-ray is completed, the couch on which you are lying is moved forward a small distance. You will be asked to lie very still while each scan is taken to avoid blurring the images. The radiographer will leave the room during the scan but will be able to talk to you through an intercom. Several scans will be carried out and the whole procedure may last from a few minutes to thirty minutes.

Ultrasound is a form of diagnostic imaging that does not use ionising radiation. Instead, sound waves are used, which reflect from body tissues giving an image on a screen. 

A lubricating gel is put on to your skin, so that the transducer (probe) is able to move smoothly and to ensure that there is continuous contact. The transducer is connected to a computer and a monitor. Pulses of ultrasound are sent from the probe, through your skin and into your body. Ultrasound waves are bounced back from the structures of the body and are displayed as an image on the monitor. As well as producing still pictures, an ultrasound scan shows movement that can be recorded on to video. The scan is painless but you may be asked to drink a lot of water before a scan, so you may experience some discomfort from a full bladder.

X-rays are a type of high-energy radiation that is like light waves but higher in energy. An X-ray machine can produce short bursts of X-rays that pass easily through fluids and soft tissues of the body but are blocked by dense tissue such as bone. 

You will be asked to lie on a table or stand against a surface so that the part of your body being X-rayed is between the X-ray source and a drawer containing a cassette. The designated part of your body is exposed to X-rays for a fraction of a second. The X-rays hit the plate, which is then developed. You have to keep still so the image is clear and not blurry. The X-ray is painless and you cannot see or feel it.

County Hospital

The imaging department is located on the Ground Floor, Main Building, County Hospital.  X-Ray, CT, MRI, Fluoroscopy (Barium) and Ultrasound are all in the same area.  Diagnostic Ultrasound is located on the 2nd floor.

On arrival at the site, the car parks have barriers and a token is issued on entry. Patients are required to pay at the pay machine located to the left of the main entrance before returning to their car. For Blue Badge holders there is a small disabled car park outside the main entrance.

Reception: 01785 230153 – Monday to Sunday 07:45am to 07:45pm

Walk in clinics

Monday to Friday 08:00am to 07:30pm.

There are no walk-in clinics on the weekend or on Bank Holidays.

A barium enema is a procedure that is carried out using a special type of X-ray to examine the large bowel. Normal X-rays do not provide very good pictures of the bowel, so a substance called barium sulphate is used to produce a clearer picture. Barium sulphate is a fine, white, odourless powder that is insoluble and non-poisonous. It coats the inside of the bowel, making it easier to see on the X-rays. 


If examination of the large intestine (bowel) is necessary, the barium sulphate is put directly into the rectum via the back-passage (anus). This is called a barium enema. If, however, the upper gastrointestinal tract (oesophagus, stomach and small intestine) is to be investigated, the barium sulphate can be taken by mouth in a procedure known as a barium meal or barium swallow.​

MRI uses magnets and radio waves to create an image of the body. Because of the magnetic field generated, it is not a suitable imaging technique for patients who have pacemakers or other pieces of 'metal' in their bodies. However, because it does not use ionising radiation and can create detailed images of soft tissue, it can be used for the detection of many diseases. 

An MRI scanner is like a short tunnel, (open at both ends), through which a motorised bed passes. During a scan you lie on the bed and a small 'receiving device' is placed behind, or around, the part of your body being scanned. You are then moved into the scanner tube, either head-first or feet-first, depending on which part of your body is being scanned. 

An MRI scan is painless. However, it is important to be as comfortable as possible during a scan, because you must keep the part of your body being scanned very still to avoid blurring the images. A typical scan lasts between 15-60 minutes, depending on the size of the area being scanned and how many 'pictures' are taken. 

When you have a CT scan, you will be required to lie on a motorised couch inside the scanning machine which looks like a giant doughnut. The scan may need a contrast dye or substance that improves the picture of certain tissues or blood vessels. This material may be swallowed, given as an enema or injected into the blood stream, depending on the part of your body that is to be scanned. Usually the scan is taken with you lying on your back, although sometimes you will be asked to lie on your side or your front. 

After each X-ray is completed, the couch on which you are lying is moved forward a small distance. You will be asked to lie very still while each scan is taken to avoid blurring the images. The radiographer will leave the room during the scan but will be able to talk to you through an intercom. Several scans will be carried out and the whole procedure may last from a few minutes to thirty minutes.

Ultrasound is a form of diagnostic imaging that does not use ionising radiation. Instead, sound waves are used, which reflect from body tissues giving an image on a screen. 

A lubricating gel is put on to your skin, so that the transducer (probe) is able to move smoothly and to ensure that there is continuous contact. The transducer is connected to a computer and a monitor. Pulses of ultrasound are sent from the probe, through your skin and into your body. Ultrasound waves are bounced back from the structures of the body and are displayed as an image on the monitor. As well as producing still pictures, an ultrasound scan shows movement that can be recorded on to video. The scan is painless but you may be asked to drink a lot of water before a scan, so you may experience some discomfort from a full bladder.

X-rays are a type of high-energy radiation that is like light waves but higher in energy. An X-ray machine can produce short bursts of X-rays that pass easily through fluids and soft tissues of the body but are blocked by dense tissue such as bone. 

You will be asked to lie on a table or stand against a surface so that the part of your body being X-rayed is between the X-ray source and a drawer containing a cassette. The designated part of your body is exposed to X-rays for a fraction of a second. The X-rays hit the plate, which is then developed. You have to keep still so the image is clear and not blurry. The X-ray is painless and you cannot see or feel it.​

Your res​​ults 

Remember, your x-ray only tells half the story; your results tell the other half.  If you haven't been told the results of your x-ray or scan, contact us or your GP surgery.  Don't assume there is nothing you need to know.

Helpful info​​rmation

Concerned about x-rays?  See the section at the bottom of this page: 'X-rays - How safe are they?'

Scanner loca​​tions

You will be advised by the Imaging department as to where your scan is taking place. ​​

Cobridge Hea​​lth Centre

Church Terrace Cobridge Stoke-on-Trent ST6 2JW Tel: (0300) 7900164

Opening Times: Mon - Fri 8:30am - 12:30pm and 1:30pm - 4:30pm  

Haywood Ho​​spital

High Lane Burslem Stoke-on-Trent ST6 7AG Tel: (01782) 673666

Opening Times: 

Monday to Friday 8am to 10pm, last GP referrals seen at 9.30pm

Saturday/Sunday 9am to 10pm, last GP patient seen at 9.30pm

Note: X-Ray Reception is located to the left of the Main Reception desk

Leek Moorlands H​​ospital

Ashbourne Road Leek ST13 5BQ Tel: (0300) 1231161 ext 3644

Opening Times: Mon, Wed, Thu 8:30am-12:30pm & 1:30pm-5:00pm

Tue, Fri, 8:30am - 12:30pm

Royal Stoke University Hos​​pital

X-Ray Dept,  Main Building (Lower Ground Floor 1) Newcastle Road Stoke-on-Trent ST4 6QG

Tel: (01782) 675800 

Mon-Wed 8.30am-19.00pm

Thursday 8.30am-16.00pm

Friday  8.30am-16.30pm​

Please note there are no walk In clinics on Bank Holidays. Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve we will be running shorter clinics, please contact the relevant hospital for opening times

County Hospital

Weston Road, Stafford ST16 3SA 

Tel: 01785 230153
Monday to Friday 08:00am to 07:30pm

There are no walk-in clinics on the weekend or on Bank Holidays.​

X-rays - How safe are they?

Thirty years ago, X-rays were the only way to see what was going on inside your body. Now other methods of medical imaging are available, some using different types of radiation from X-rays. They are briefly described on the next two pages. Patients are sometimes concerned about the possible harmful effects of radiation, so this leaflet goes on to explain the risks and to put them into perspective.

This is the familiar X-ray which most of us will have had at some time during our lives, usually for looking at broken bones or at the chest or teeth. A machine directs a beam of X-rays through the part of your body that is being examined and on to a special film. A picture is produced on the film of the structures the X-rays have passed through in your body. Simple radiographs such as these involve extremely low amounts of radiation.

 

This is sometimes called ‘screening’. After passing through your body, the X-ray beam is viewed by a special camera which produces a moving picture on a TV screen. The radiologist or radiographer (see definitions at the end of this leaflet) performing the examination can take snapshots of any important findings, or record the whole thing on video. Fluoroscopy is often used to look at the gut. For example, in a ‘barium meal’ you will be asked to swallow a drink of barium, which is shown up well by X-rays, to give moving pictures of your stomach and intestine. Fluoroscopic examinations usually involve higher radiation doses than simple radiography.

This is a more sophisticated way of using X-rays. You lie on a narrow table which passes through a circular hole in the middle of the machine. A fan-shaped beam of X-rays passes through a slice of your body on to a bank of detectors. The X-ray source and the detectors rotate around inside the machine. An image of the slice is formed by a computer and displayed on a TV screen. You are moved slowly through the hole to take pictures of different slices of your body and sometimes to produce 3D pictures. If many slices are imaged, the radiation dose can be as high or higher than that for fluoroscopy.

This is another way of using radiation to produce pictures. Instead of using an X-ray machine, a small amount of radioactive material (isotope) is injected into a vein (occasionally it is swallowed or inhaled). The radioactive material concentrates in a particular organ or tissue, for example in the skeleton for a bone scan. It emits gamma rays, which are a type of radiation that behaves like X-rays. A special camera detects the gamma rays coming out of your body and builds up a picture of what is happening inside you. The radioactivity in your body falls to insignificant levels in a few days. The total radiation dose you receive while it is there will be similar to or less than that from fluoroscopy.

These are two of the most exciting advances in medical imaging of the past thirty years. They do not use X-rays or gamma rays and, so far, no ill-effects have been seen from ultrasound or from the high magnetic fields used in MRI examinations. So why not use them for all pictures, then there will be no concern about possible radiation risks and this leaflet wouldn’t be necessary? The answer is that, although they can give beautifully detailed pictures of some parts of the body, they are unable to provide useful pictures to replace all types of X-ray examination. Also, MRI scanners, being very expensive, are not always available and they cannot be used on some patients who have pieces of metal in their body. So, although these new methods are used wherever possible, X-rays and gamma rays will be with us for a long time yet.

All the methods of medical imaging can bring very real benefits to patients. The overriding concern of your doctor and the hospital radiology department is to ensure that when radiation is used, the benefits from making the right diagnosis, and consequently giving you the right treatment, outweigh any small risk involved.

If after reading this information, you are still concerned about the possible risks from having an X-ray examination, ask your doctor how the information gained will help to improve your treatment. If treatment decisions depend on the findings, then the risk to your health from not having the examination is likely to be much greater than that from the radiation itself.

 

we are all exposed to natural background radiation every day of our lives. This comes from the ground and building materials around us, the air we breathe, the food we eat and even from outer space (cosmic rays). In most of the UK the largest contribution is from radon gas which seeps out of the ground and accumulates in our houses.

Each medical X-ray or nuclear medicine examination gives us a small additional dose on top of this natural background radiation. The level of dose varies with the type of examination, ranging from the equivalent of a few days of natural background radiation to a few years.

The most common X-ray examinations are those of the teeth, the chest and the limbs. These involve exceedingly small doses that are equivalent to only a few days of natural background radiation.

Examinations involving many X-ray pictures and fluoroscopy (eg barium meals or barium enemas), CT scans of the body or bone isotope scans, involve higher doses. Even these represent only a fraction of our lifetime dose from natural radiation.

Natural radiation diagram: 14% Cosmic rays, 58% radon, 12% food, 16% Ground

You will be glad to know that the radiation doses used for X-ray examinations or isotope scans are many thousands of times too low to produce immediate harmful effects, such as skin burns or radiation sickness. The only effect on the patient that is known to be possible at these low doses is a very slight increase in the chance of cancer occurring many years or even decades after the exposure. Approximate estimates of the chance or risk that a particular examination or scan might result in a radiation-induced cancer later in the lifetime of the patient are shown in the table in the next section.

X-ray examination (Nuclear medicine or isotope scan)  Equivalent period of natural background radiation Lifetime additional risk of cancer per examination*

Chest

Teeth

Arms and legs

Hands and feet

A few days

NEGLIGIBLE RISK

Less than 1 in 1,000,000

Skull

Head

Neck

A few weeks

MINIMAL RISK

1 in 1,000,000 to 1 in 100,000

Breast [mammography]

Hip

Spine

Abdomen

Pelvis

CT scan of head

(Lung isotope scan)

(Kidney isotope scan)

A few months to a year

VERY LOW RISK

1 in 100,000 to 1 in 10,000

Kidneys and bladder [IVU]

Stomach – barium meal

Colon – barium enema

CT scan of chest

CT scan of abdomen

(Bone isotope scan)

A few years

LOW RISK

1 in 10,000 to 1 in 1,000

* These risk levels represent very small additions to the 1 in 3 chance we all have of getting cancer

 

Just about everything we do in our daily lives carries some level of risk. We tend to regard activities as being “safe” when the risk of something unpleasant happening falls below a certain level. The lower the level of risk, the “safer” the activity becomes. For example, most people would regard activities involving a risk of below 1 in 1,000,000 as exceedingly safe.

The radiation risks for simple X-ray examinations of the teeth, chest or limbs, can be seen to fall into this negligible risk category (less than 1 in 1,000,000 risk). More complicated examinations carry a minimal to low risk.

Higher dose examinations such as barium enemas, CT body scans or isotope bone scans fall into the low risk category (1 in 10,000 to 1 in 1,000 risk). As we all have a 1 in 3 chance of getting cancer even if we never have an X-ray, these higher dose examinations still represent a very small addition to this underlying cancer risk from all causes.

As long as it is clearly necessary to help make the correct treatment decision for a patient, the benefits from any X-ray examination or isotope scan should usually outweigh these small radiation risks. It should be remembered that the higher dose examinations are normally used to diagnose more serious conditions when a greater benefit to the patient is to be expected.

Think about this...

Airplane flying

Airline flights are very safe with the risk of a crash being well below 1 in 1,000,000. Incidentally, a four hour flight exposes you to the same radiation dose (from cosmic rays) as a chest X-ray.

ach individual X-ray examination or isotope scan carries the level of risk indicated in the table on page 5. To estimate the effect of having many examinations, the risks for each one are simply added together. It does not make any difference whether you have a number of X-rays in one day or spread over many years, the total risk is just the same.

If you have already had a large number of X-rays and the total risk is causing you concern, the need for each new examination should still be judged on its own merits. Before going ahead, your doctor must be able to reassure you that there is no other way of providing new information that is essential for the effective management of your medical problem.

Make sure your doctor is aware of other X-rays or scans you have had, in case they make additional examinations unnecessary.

s you get older you are more likely to need an X-ray examination. Fortunately radiation risks for older people are lower than those shown in the table on page 5. This is because there is less time for a radiation-induced cancer to develop, so the chances of it happening are greatly reduced.

Children, however, with most of their life still ahead of them, may be at twice the risk of middle-aged people from the same X-ray examination. This is why particular attention is paid to ensuring that there is a clear medical benefit for every child who is X-rayed. The radiation dose is also kept as low as possible without detracting from the information the examination can provide. 

A baby in the womb may also be more sensitive to radiation than an adult, so we are particularly careful about X-rays during pregnancy. There is no problem with something like an X-ray of the hand or the chest because the radiation does not go anywhere near the baby. However, special precautions are required for examinations where the womb is in, or near, the beam of radiation, or for isotope scans where the radioactive material could reach the baby through the mother’s circulating blood.

Baby in Mother's womb with thought bubble "Please Mum, tell them I'm here"

If you are about to have such an examination and are a woman of childbearing age, the radiographer or radiologist will ask you if there is any chance of your being pregnant.

If this is a possibility, your case will be discussed with the doctors looking after you to decide whether or not to recommend postponing the investigation. There will be occasions when diagnosing and treating your illness is essential for your health and your unborn child. When this health benefit clearly outweighs the small radiation risks, the X-ray or scan may go ahead after discussing all the options with you.

If the reproductive organs (ovaries or testes) are exposed to radiation there is a possibility that hereditary diseases or abnormalities may be passed on to future generations. Although the effect has never been seen in humans, lead-rubber shields can be placed over the ovaries or testes during some X-ray examinations, as a precaution. They are only necessary for examinations of the lower abdomen and thighs on patients who are young enough to have children. Even then, there are some examinations where it is not practicable to use gonad shields since they will obscure important diagnostic information.

➤ In radiology departments, every effort is made to keep radiation doses low and, wherever possible, to use ultrasound or MRI which involve no hazardous radiation.

➤ The radiation doses from X-ray examinations or isotope scans are small in relation to those we receive from natural background radiation, ranging from the equivalent of a few days worth to a few years.

➤ The health risks from these doses are very small in relation to the underlying risks of cancer, but are not entirely negligible for some procedures involving fluoroscopy or computed tomography (CT).

➤ You should make your doctor aware of any other recent X-rays or scans you may have had, in case they make further examinations unnecessary.

➤ The risks are much lower for older people and a little higher for children and unborn babies, so extra care is taken with young or pregnant patients.

➤ If you are concerned about the possible risks from an investigation using radiation, you should ask your doctor whether the examination is really necessary. If it is, then the risk to your health from not having the examination is likely to be very much greater than that from the radiation itself.

Radiographers are the health-care professionals who carry out many of these X-ray examinations and other imaging procedures. They have undergone specialised education and training to enable them to care for you and to use the imaging equipment safely in all areas of the radiology department.

Radiologists are doctors who are specially trained to decide on the appropriate investigation, to carry out some of the more complex ones and to interpret the X-ray pictures or isotope scans. They will write a report on your examination that will be sent back to the specialist or GP who asked for your examination to be done.

The above information for patients was prepared by the: National Radiological Protection Board , College of Radiographers , Royal College of Radiologists , and Royal College of General Practitioners . Produced by NRPB, Chilton, Didcot, Oxon OX11 0RQ