Radiologic Diagnostic Imaging

You can count on our team of skilled technologists and board-certified radiologists at UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center for quality diagnostic imaging. Our state-of-the-art services include 3D digital mammography, X-ray, fluoroscopy, 64-slice CT, nuclear medicine and MRI. Our ultrasound department includes obstetrical imaging, women's health, abdominal, vascular and echocardiography services. Portable X-ray services are available for the comfort of our critical care and emergency patients. We also offer mobile x-ray services for convenience to our nursing home patients.

The radiology department focuses on patient comforts, patient privacy, patient satisfaction and operational efficiency. The staff of 20 registered technologists and two office personnel provides coverage 24/7 at GRMC. These trained staff members conduct approximately 25,000 radiology procedures per year, from chest and extremity x-rays to CT, ultrasound, MRI and mammography.

Learn more about the radiology services we provide by expanding each section below.


Recommended Breast Cancer Screening

American College of Radiology mammography accreditation sealThe American College of Radiology (ACR) urges women to have a regular screening for breast cancer as part of their wellness plan using these guidelines:
  • Women aged 40 to 49 with average risk
  • Women aged 50 to 74 with average risk
  • Women aged 75 or older with average risk
  • Women at higher than average risk
  • Women with dense breasts

Screening with Mammography Annually

Screening with mammography should stop when life expectancy is less than 5 to 7 years on the basis of age or comorbid conditions. For BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carriers, untested family members of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carriers, and women with a lifetime risk of 20% or greater (based on family history), screening should include annual mammography and annual MRI starting by age 30 years but not before age 25 years. For women with a history of chest irradiation between the ages of 10 and 30 years, annual mammography and annual MRI starting 8 years after treatment (mammography not recommended before age 25). In addition to mammography, ultrasound can be considered. To schedule your mammogram at GRMC, call (515)241-6111.

How does mammography work?

Mammography uses x-rays to detect cancer when it is still too small to be felt. Cancerous cells are denser than surrounding breast tissue and thus appear as white spots on an x-ray. Tiny pieces of calcium (microcalcifications) in the breast tissue may also indicate cancer and also appear as white spots.

Our digital mammography services use computer-assisted diagnostic 3-D technology for a computerized "second look" for screening and diagnostic mammograms. PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) replaces hard-copy diagnostic images with direct digital feeds from modern imaging equipment, which translates to faster service and a permanent digital record of your imaging study results.

How can I prepare for my exam?

Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder, or lotion under your arms or on your breasts, as these can appear on the mammogram as calcium spots. Consider scheduling your mammogram a week after your period to minimize breast tenderness. Describe any symptoms or problems you're having related to your breasts and indicate whether you may be pregnant to the technician performing the exam, and if possible, obtain prior mammograms for the radiologist to compare.

What happens during an exam?

Your breast will be compressed to spread out the tissue and improve imaging. You must hold very still to ensure a clear image.

What happens afterwards?

Remember to ask when your results will be available and follow up if you do not receive them.


How does x-ray work?

X-rays are a form of light that humans cannot see but x-ray detectors can. X-rays can pass through some parts of the body, such as muscle, but not others, such as bone. The white parts on an x ray are the "shadows" of dense body parts that the x-rays cannot travel through.

How can I prepare for my exam?

Usually, no special preparation is required.

What happens during an exam?

You must remain still to ensure clear images, and you will wear a lead smock to protect the parts of your body not being studied from unnecessary radiation.

What happens afterwards?

A radiologist will review the images and send a report to your doctor. Usually you can resume normal physical activity immediately after the exam.


How does CT work?

The scanner uses an x-ray to take many cross-section images of your body, and a computer stitches those images together so your physician can see the shape and placement of all your internal organs to identify possible problems.

How can I prepare for my exam?

Some patients receive a substance through IV to increase contrast in the images. Others drink oral contrast, which highlights the stomach and small bowel. You may also be asked to fast for 4-6 hours prior to the exam. Let your technician know if you are allergic to iodine contrast, diabetic, hypertensive, or may be pregnant.

What happens during an exam?

The duration of the process depends on the area of the body, and usually varies between 10 and 30 minutes. You will need to remain still on the scanner table to ensure clear images, and may also need to hold your breath for part of the exam. The scanner table will move through the machine. Your technician will give you specific instructions.

What happens afterwards?

A radiologist will review the scan and report to your doctor in approximately three days. You can immediately resume normal diet and activities following the exam, and your body will naturally eliminate any contrast material used. Oral contrast material may cause diarrhea in some patients.


How does ultrasound work?

A technician moves a device called a transducer across your skin and the transducer sends high-frequency sound waves into your body and listens as those waves bounce back. The ultrasound machine turns this information into a picture of what's happening inside your body. The technology is similar to what dolphins and bats use to sense their surroundings. You are not exposed to any radiation in the process.

How can I prepare for my exam?

Unless you are scheduled for a pelvic or abdominal ultrasound, you will probably not need to specially prepare. For abdominal ultrasounds, you must fast for eight hours prior to the exam. For a pelvic ultrasound you may need a full bladder, since a full bladder makes it easier to see the ovaries and uterus. However, pelvic ultrasounds performed vaginally do not require a full bladder.

What happens during an exam?

The technician will apply warm gel and move a transducer slowly across your skin. Sometimes a vaginal probe helps view pelvic organs, but this procedure doesn't require a full bladder.


How does MRI work?

A powerful magnet forces the protons in your body's water molecules to align with the magnetic field, then radio waves disrupt the alignment. When the radio waves stop, MRI sensors watch how the protons return to alignment with the magnetic field and computers use the data to determine the nature of the tissues present. The process creates detailed 3D images of the inside of your body.

How can I prepare for my exam?

Do not wear or carry anything metal (bobby pins, watches, pocketknives, coins), and notify the technician if you have any metal implants such as a pacemaker or cochlear implant. If you are concerned about claustrophobia, discuss possible medication with the ordering physician.

What happens during an exam?

You lie on a padded table to move through the tunnel of magnetic housing. A receiver coil to produce radio waves will be placed near the body part to be examined. The machine will be loud and you may wish to bring earplugs or headphones to listen to music. In some cases a contrast agent will be given in an injection comparable to having your blood drawn.

Bone Densitometry

How does bone densitometry work?

Specialized software on the CT scanner looks at cross-section images of your bones to determine risk of osteoporosis.

How can I prepare for my exam?

No special preparation is required.

What happens during an exam?

You will lie on a table and move through the CT machine. The exam takes fewer than ten minutes.

Combined PET/CT

How does a combined PET/CT scan work?

A PET/CT scan combines the technologies of CT and Positron Emission Tomography (PET), with the same machine performing both tests simultaneously. A PET scan works by detecting positrons emitted by a radioactive substance administered to the patient.

How can I prepare for my exam?

Limit carbohydrate intake for 24 hours prior to your appointment, and fast (except for water) for six hours prior to the exam.

What happens during an exam?

Expect the exam to last about two hours. The technician may instruct you to hold still or hold your breath at certain points. Drink plenty of water after the exam and wait for 24 hours to resume breastfeeding. Report any adverse effects to your physician.

Nuclear Medicine

How does nuclear medicine work?

A radiopharmaceutical is introduced to your body either orally or by injection. Special cameras can detect the radiation of the radiopharmaceutical. The radiation exposure involved is comparable to that of a chest x-ray.

How can I prepare for my exam?

Preparation varies by exam, but sometimes includes fasting or going off certain medications.

What happens during an exam?

First a technologist will administer the radiopharmaceutical, then you will lie motionless on an imaging table while radiation detectors work.