It’s important that you are familiar with different diagnostic tests. Diagnostic tests are what we use in order to diagnose different kinds of conditions, medical disorders, and problems. Diagnostic tests can be invasive or noninvasive. Here are some different diagnostic tests. #1- Angiography

We use angiography to detect blockages of arteries or veins. There are different kinds of angiograms. We have coronary angiograms which are used to detect blockages in the coronary arteries of the heart. A cerebral angiogram is used to detect the degree of narrowing or obstruction of an artery or blood vessel in the brain, head, or neck. With a cerebral angiogram, it is used to diagnose stroke and to determine the location and size of brain tumors, aneurysms, or vascular malformation.  


#2- Biopsy

A biopsy involves the removal and examination of a small piece of tissue from the body.  The sample may be removed either surgically, through a slit made in the skin, or by needle biopsy, in which a thin hollow needle is inserted through the skin and into the muscle.  Muscle or nerve biopsies are used to diagnose neuromuscular disorders and may also reveal if a person is a carrier of a defective gene that could be passed on to children. A small sample of muscle or nerve is removed under local anesthetic and studied under a microscope.

Biopsies are more invasive so it’s not normally the first option when it comes to diagnosing different tests. For example, when diagnosing prostate cancer, we will often first do a lab test which is a PSA blood level screening. If the PSA levels are elevated then we will do a biopsy of the prostate gland to confirm.  


#3- Scans

Brain scans are imaging techniques used to diagnose tumors, blood vessel malformations, or hemorrhage in the brain.  We have different types of brain scans which includes computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET).

 #4- Magnetic Resonance Imaging A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses computer-generated radio waves and a very powerful magnetic field to produce detailed images of body structures including tissues, organs, bones, and nerves. Patients with conditions such as claustrophobia often don’t respond well to MRI machines and need to be sedated prior to the test. You will need to make sure your patient removes all belongings and is not wearing any form of metal.  


#5- Computed Tomography A computed tomography (CT) scan are ideal for quick rapid two dimensional images. CT scans can be used with or without contrast. If with contrast, then it is important that you first identify if your patient is allergic to the contrast by asking if they are allergic to shellfish, eggs or iodine. The contrast can be given either by mouth (PO) or via IV. If given IV then it is important that a licensed registered nurse administers the drug and is with the patient post administration within at least the first 1-4 hours. A typical reaction can occur as an anaphylactic reaction with difficulty breathing and hives.  

#6- 12 Lead ECG

Another way that we diagnose is through 12 Lead ECGs. 12 Lead ECGs is what we use to identify in cases of emergency if we believe the patient has had a true heart attack. This is not the same as continuous cardiac monitoring which is when the patient has ongoing monitoring of their heart rhythm.  

 As a nurse, it’s not your job to medically diagnose the patient but you should be able to identify what is going on with your patient. These are some important diagnostic tests you would want to be familiar with.

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