When your primary care physician or specialist requests a diagnostic study requiring imaging, you will be given a written order—or it will be sent to the designated Main Line Health Imaging facility where your procedure will take place. Please make sure you bring your physician's orders, if applicable, as well as your insurance information, and any previous scans you may have had previously. Without the physician's orders, you will not be able to complete the study.

There is little advanced preparation required before most imaging procedures. However, some imaging procedures may require you to do some preparation at home before you come in, or when you first reach the radiology facility. For example, abdominal studies frequently involve swallowing a liquid containing barium. Other studies require your bladder or bowel to be clear, so evacuation must begin several hours in advance. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your specific procedure. Make sure you complete these steps prior to appearing for your test, otherwise your procedure will be rescheduled.

Any woman who is pregnant, suspects that she is pregnant or is nursing should advise their physician in advance before any imaging procedure is performed.

Instructions to prepare for the following visits:

General X-ray | Mammography | Ultrasound | Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) | Computed tomography (CT) scanning | Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning | PET/CT scanning | DEXA scanning | Nuclear medicine

Preparing for a mammogram

As a patient, there is little preparation required for your mammogram. Do not use any deodorant, powder or lotion the day of your mammogram. These items can produce densities or specks on your mammogram and be interpreted as an abnormality. Worse still, they could hid true calcifications or a nodule. Mammography services are offered at ALL Main Line Health Imaging locations.

Preparing for a PET or PET/CT scan

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your exam. Metal objects can affect the image, so avoid clothing with zippers and snaps. You may also be asked to remove hairpins, jewelry, eyeglasses, hearing aids and any removable dental work, depending on the part of the body that is being scanned. You may also be asked not to eat or drink anything for one or more hours before the exam.

  • Do not exercise for 24 hours prior to the exam. Muscles need to be in a relaxed state when having a PET scan.
  • Please bring a complete list of medications, previous exam reports, such as CT and/or MRI films and reports, and if applicable, chemotherapy/radiation therapy history, including the date of last treatment.
  • Drink plenty of water prior to the exam.
  • Oncology Patients – Do not eat four hours before the exam.
  • Cardiology Patients – May eat a light breakfast, but must be low in fat.
  • Diabetic Patients – Do NOT fast. Eat a regular low-fat meal. And take usual dose of insulin.

Preparing for a CT scan

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your exam. Metal objects can affect the image, so avoid clothing with zippers and snaps. You may also be asked to remove hairpins, jewelry, eyeglasses, hearing aids and any removable dental work, depending on the part of the body that is being scanned. You may also be asked not to eat or drink anything for one or more hours before the exam.

Preparing for an ultrasound

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. For some scans, your doctor may instruct you not to eat or drink for as much as 12 hours before your appointment.

For fetal ultrasounds (particularly early in the pregnancy), you may be required to have a full bladder for the procedure. Air interferes with sound waves, so if your bladder is distended, the air-filled bowel is pushed out of the way and an image of the uterus, embryo or fetus is more easily obtained. You may be instructed to drink up to 6 glasses of water and avoid urinating until the procedure is completed. Please check with your physician to determine whether this will be required for your fetal ultrasound.

Preparing for an X-ray

Remove all jewelry and metallic items that could show up on the images. If you are having an upper or lower GI series performed, you will likely be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the morning of the examination. Nor should you chew gum or smoke, as these activities can cause stomach secretions, which also may degrade the quality of the images.

Preparing for an MRI

  • All patients will be requested to change into the provided patient gowns or scrubs.
  • It is recommended that you do not wear any jewelry, hairpins or watches to your appointment.
  • Patients having an orbit MRI—no eye make up.
  • Patients having a foot or hand MRI—no nail polish.
  • All metal implants will be documented and reviewed.

Preparing for a DEXA scan

On the day of the exam, eat normally, but don't take calcium supplements for at least 24 hours beforehand. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, avoiding garments that have zippers, belts or buttons made of metal. Inform your physician if you recently had a barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material for a CT scan; you may have to wait a week or two before undergoing a DEXA scan.

Preparing for a nuclear medicine procedure

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. You should not eat for four hours before the scan and you will be encouraged to drink water (especially if your test involves evaluation of the stomach or kidneys). Your doctor will instruct you regarding the use of medications before the test.