What Does My X-Ray Report Mean?
At Complete Podiatry, we request and review many radiology examinations every week.
Modern technology has given the field of medicine and health some amazing tools to help us get our Clients better fast.
X-rays, ultrasounds, CTs and MRIs can be very useful techniques to look for changes inside the body.
The Problem With Medical Imaging
In our Podiatry practice, we will often use imaging to confirm (or possibly rule out) a diagnosis made on the signs and symptoms that a client presents with. Often, the language used to explain the changes seen with medical imaging can be quite frightening to the untrained eye. The language health professionals use to describe what is seen in radiology exams will often mean very different things to people in the health profession versus ‘normal’ people in the real world. Phrases like ‘severe degeneration’ in an X-ray report mean there are a number of changes noted on the X-ray rather than an indication of how ‘bad’ the condition is or how much it will affect you in your day to day life.
For many clients though, the results of the examination may just confirm what we fear to be a server, debilitating condition that will greatly affect our lives. AND when your health professional tells you “oh it’s the worst one of these I have seen” or askes us “‘how are you walking on this, it looks awful?” this only affirms our fears of how bad our situation is.
Communication is the Key
When I ask a client to get a radiology examination performed, I will ‘prime’ them by telling them we will probably find a number of things in the imaging that may have little or no effect on the pain they are experiencing.
For example, when I request an ultrasound to check a heel in a suspected case of plantar fasciitis, I will expect to see the plantar fascia on the painful side thickened.
As we commence treatment, I would expect the Client’s pain to reduce and eventually stop altogether. However, if we did another ultrasound AFTER the pain had settled, I would expect to see the same degree of thickening in the plantar fascia as before we started treatment.
"But It Doesn't Look Any Better"
Remember this phrase: Pain does not equal pathology.
In a seminal study 1990, the authors used MRI on a large number of subjects with no history of back pain and identified a multitude of spinal changes surgeons would normally attribute as clears causes of back pain.
In another study, more than 50% of patients said they would have a spinal surgery if their doctor told them they had an abnormal spinal MRI, even if they had no pain or restricted movement. What these studies all demonstrate is that when we focus on the ‘damage’ in a body part with imaging, we become more focussed on how ‘bad’ the body part is rather than focusing on making it feel better.
Abnormal X-Ray Reports Can Be Normal X-Ray Reports
There are many abnormal findings in people who have no pain just as there are a lot of people in pain who have normal findings in their radiology examinations. So what should you do if you are having an X-ray or other imaging procedure done?
Here are my top three tips for you to remember the next time you need to have a radiology exam performed:
- Be aware that there will be normal changes in the image that are not related to your pain: pain does not equal pathology
- Be careful if you read the radiologists report, they are easy to misinterpret and may increase your fear or apprehension about your condition
- Ask your health professional to explain what the words they use to describe imaging findings mean in a clear, understandable way.
I'm so confident I can help you that I'd love to chat with you personally about your foot problems, it's what I'm passionate about!
Contact us on 8330 0004 or send us a message on our website.
Yours in helping build amazing lives from the feet up.
Director of Complete Podiatry