Medical imaging

Find reliable independent health and treatment information about medical imaging tests written by Australian experts. This includes resources for consumers and health professionals.

About medical imaging

What is medical imaging and why is it useful?

Medical imaging is a range of procedures used to create images of parts of the human body, to help:

  • screen for possible illness or injury
  • diagnose the likely cause of symptoms
  • monitor health conditions or the effects of treatment.

While most people are familiar with X-ray, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, there are many different types of imaging, all using different technology. This increasing range of imaging types provides health professionals with many options for showing what is happening inside your body.

Is medical imaging the best option?

No single type of imaging is better all the time. Like any medical procedure or treatment, medical imaging should be chosen according to your individual needs.

Because some forms of imaging involve radiation, there are specific recommendations about how they are used, especially in children.

For more information

For health professionals  

Imaging plays an important role in modern medicine; however, there are concerns that its benefits may be overshadowed by its risks in certain situations.1

Modern imaging techniques can show great detail, but methods that involve ionising radiation can increase a patient’s lifetime risk of cancer.

Imaging may also cause added concern to the patient and impose extra costs (both financial and other). Therefore, it is important to ensure that medical imaging is used appropriately.

CPD activity

This interactive online learning module will help you to make the best use of diagnostic imaging when investigating chronic abdominal pain. Completing this module will refresh your knowledge and decision-making skills in light of current Australian guidelines, while earning CPD points through our learning activity.

For your patients

Fact sheets can help you discuss with patients the reason for their medical imaging test, and to explain the advantages and disadvantages of different types of imaging.

Clinical information

Quality use of medical tests means choosing the right test for the patient and using it at the right time. Read about the latest evidence and guidelines on medical imaging for a range of common uses.

Resources and tools

  1. Mathews JD, Forsythe AV, Brady Z, et al. Cancer risk in 680 000 people exposed to computed tomography scans in childhood or adolescence: data linkage study of 11 million Australians. BMJ 2013;346:f2360. [Pubmed]

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