An x-ray is the simplest kind of image that your doctor can order. It can look for a blockage in the bowel, perforation/tear and how much stool is in your colon. There is a very small amount of radiation in conventional x-rays.
For contrast x-rays, a substance called barium is either injected into the rectum or given orally. The barium appears white on an x-ray and coats the rectum and bowels. This produces clear visuals of the GI tract.
Ultrasonography uses sound waves to take pictures of your body. In IBD, you may have an ultrasound to look at your liver and gall bladder, your bladder and possibly part of your intestines. There is no radiation involved. A small probe is placed on your body with gel to take the pictures.
CT scans (or CAT scans) are tests that use radiation to take more detailed pictures of your abdomen than x-rays. These scans produce 360 degree images of soft tissues, bones, and organs. Most of the time, you will drink a liquid (called “contrast”) and receive a different liquid (another kind of contrast) through a vein. Our radiologists at MGHfC use special equipment so that the radiation dose is lower than the national average.