Test Preparation & Expectations
Being prepared for your test, whether in the lab or an imaging facility, is one way you can help to ensure that your test goes smoothly and results are available as quickly as possible. The preparation instructions provided by your doctor are important to follow. What follows is some basic information on how to prepare and what to expect for common kinds of lab work and imaging procedures.
Shared Health diagnostic services offers a complete testing menu to support doctors who are providing primary health care to Manitobans across the province. This includes tests in biochemistry and genetics, cytology, hematology, histology, immunology, microbiology, pathology and toxicology.
Your doctor will order appropriate tests using blood, urine or other samples as required to aid in diagnosing health concerns and issues. It is best to speak directly with your doctor for information on the tests that are necessary for your unique situation. You can also access information about specific tests by visiting Lab Tests Online.
How to prepare: Your doctor will also speak with you about what you need to do to prepare for the tests that he or she has ordered. If you are not given specific directions, you should ask your doctor if there is anything you need to do to prepare for your test, such as fasting (not eating or drinking) or not taking medication.
What to expect: When you come in to a facility for your tests, you will need to provide your Manitoba Health Card or an alternate piece of identification with your photograph and the requisition form your doctor filled out.
Results: Your sample will be sent to the laboratory where technologists will perform the required tests. The technologist cannot provide you with results. The results are sent to your doctor, who will discuss the findings and next steps with you.
For more information, please contact your preferred test site.
Shared Health supports patient care with a variety of Diagnostic Imaging Services. You can learn more about each kind of imaging procedure below.
X-rays are one of the fastest and most pain-free ways for a doctor to look inside a patient’s body. X-rays are used to examine bones and other organs, such as lungs, heart, and digestive system.
How to prepare: If you know you will be having an x-ray, it is best to dress comfortably. Depending on what part of your body is being x-rayed, you might be asked to wear a hospital gown. If you are wearing jewelry or clothing with metal parts you may be asked to take it off.
What to expect: When you are being x-rayed, the technologist will position you so he or she can get the necessary views of your body. He or she may use pillows to help you hold the position. When the X-ray is being taken, you will be asked to remain still and maybe even hold your breath to avoid moving because movement causes the picture to blur.
Some x-ray exams require that you be given something called a contrast medium. The contrast medium can be given in different ways depending on your test. Often, it is a thick, chalky fluid you must drink. For other tests, it can be given through a needle or as an enema. The contrast medium helps certain parts of your body to be seen in the x-ray. If you need to have it, we will send you instructions for how to prepare and our technologist will speak with you about it before your test.
Often, X-ray exams take only few minutes, especially to look at bones. But for procedures that require a contrast medium, the exam will take longer.
Results: A doctor who specializes in x-rays, called a radiologist, usually reviews the x-ray and sends a report of his or her findings to your doctor, who can explain the results to you. In emergency situations such as broken bones, the x-ray is viewed immediately by the emergency doctor so they can begin treating the injury or problem.
Fluoroscopy is a type of x-ray examination that helps a radiologist to see images of your body in motion such as how a contrast medium travels from your mouth to stomach.
Please see information on preparing for an X-ray and what to expect during your test above.
Mammography is an x-ray examination of the breast. Mammography is used to screen for lesions before you or your doctor are aware of them, as well as to diagnose lesions that have been found through other means but need to be examined in more detail. Although many patients requiring mammography are female, there are also men who require this examination.
How to prepare: As with any kind of x-ray, please dress comfortably. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any jewelry you are wearing.
What to expect: The technologist doing your test will explain what he or she is doing. In brief, a device will be used to compress your breast. This helps to produce detailed pictures of the inside of your breast. You will experience some pressure, discomfort and soreness that will last for a brief time after the test.
Results: The images of your breast will be reviewed by a doctor specializing in radiology (radiologist). The Radiologist will determine if the lump in the breast is normal tissue, a cyst, or a tumor and will send the report to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results of the test and your next steps if cancer is suspected.
Computed Tomography (CT)
A Computed Tomography is an examination that uses specialized x-ray equipment to make detailed pictures of structures inside the body. It can be used to study many parts of your body, including organs, blood vessels, bones and spinal cord. Sometimes, a contrast material is injected into the blood to assess organs and structures that would otherwise not be seen, or to assess the function of certain organs.
Please see the information on X-rays above for more detail about how to prepare and what to expect during your test.
Diagnostic Ultrasound uses sound waves to obtain pictures of the internal structures and organs in your body. Most people know about ultrasound because it is used to capture pictures during pregnancy. But ultrasound is also used to look at many other organs such as the kidneys, liver, uterus, heart, and blood vessels.
How to prepare: The instructions for how to prepare for an ultrasound examinations will be provided to you when the appointment is made. Depending on why you are having an ultrasound, you may have no preparation at all. For some tests, you may be required to stop eating and drinking for up to six hours before the test. In other tests, such as pelvic ultrasounds, you will be asked to drink water and not urinate before the exam; a full bladder creates better images of the uterus, ovaries and/or prostate.
What to expect: At your ultrasound, the technologist – called a sonographer – will ask you to lie down on an examination table. Gel will be applied to your skin where the test is being done. The sonographer will move a small hand-held device above the area needing examination. As the device is moved over your body, the sonographer will apply pressure, which is necessary to capture the required images, so you may experience some discomfort.
Every ultrasound exam is different. While most exams will take 30 minutes to complete, some exams will take as little as 10 minutes and others may take up to an hour. Please be patient; it is important for the sonographer to take all the images needed by the radiologist to provide your doctor with a complete report to your doctor.
Results: Your sonographer cannot provide results during the ultrasound. When your exam is complete, a specialized doctor called a radiologist will look at the images and send a report to your doctor. Most often, results are provided to your doctor within a few days. However, if your ultrasound exam is for an urgent medical condition, your doctor will receive the results sooner.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic Imaging test that uses magnetic field and radio frequencies to obtain detailed images of soft tissues in your body such as the brain, heart, liver and joints.
How to prepare: Before going for an MRI, you can continue to eat and drink as you normally would, unless your doctor has given you different instructions. You should dress comfortably. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and to take off jewelry and any other items that contain metal such as underwire bras, eyeglasses, and hair barrettes.
What to expect: The MRI machine looks like a tube with both ends open. You will be asked to lie down on a table that slides into the tube. You will be monitored by a technologist from another room, but you can speak with him or her by microphone.
The MRI is completely painless. However, the machine will make repetitive tapping, thumping and other noises that can be very loud. Earplugs may be provided to help block the noise. The technologist will ask you to remain very still inside the machine as any movement will blur the images the machine is capturing.
Sometimes, a contrast medium is injected into the blood to assess organs and structures that are difficult to view or to assess the function of certain organs. Our technologist will speak with you beforehand if your test requires a contrast injection.
MRIs can last up to an hour or more. Please be patient and remain calm; the technologist is trying to capture images of everything your doctor needs to diagnose and/or treat your health issue or concern.
Results: The technologist cannot provide you with results. A specialized doctor called a radiologist will look at the images and send a report to your doctor, who will discuss the findings and next steps with you.
An EKG – or electrocardiogram test – is used to examine how your heart is functioning. It tracks patterns in your heartbeat and rhythm so that your doctor can diagnose various heart conditions.
How to prepare: No special preparations are required for an EKG. You will be required to remove your top and wear a gown.
What to expect: The technician doing your EKG will ask you to lie down on an examining table. As many as 12 to 15 electrodes will be attached to your arms, chest and even legs using sticky patches and gel. The electrodes help to detect and conduct the electrical currents of your heart.
You can breathe normally during the test, but you will be required to remain quite still for the test, which generally takes only a few minutes. There is absolutely no pain when you have an EKG done.
Results: Results from an EKG are available soon after the test. In an emergency situation, the doctor will speak to you right away. Otherwise, you should check within your doctor a few days after the test.
When a doctor needs to understand how your heart is functioning over a longer period of time, he or she will request a special type of EKG test that can monitor a patient’s heart for 24 hours. Patients are asked to wear a special device called a Holter Monitor while carrying out their ordinary daily activities. Holter Monitoring is used to help determine whether someone has an undetected heart disease, such as an abnormal heart rhythm or inadequate blood flow through the heart.
For more information, please speak with your doctor.
A stress test is a special type of EKG that provides information on how your heart functions while you are physically active. Since physical activity can make the heart work harder and pump faster, this test can reveal problems with your heart that might not be noticeable under normal conditions.
How to prepare: Your doctor may ask that you avoid eating, drinking and smoking for two or more hours before a stress test. Medications should be taken as usual, unless your doctor tells you not to take them. You will want to wear comfortable clothing since you will be exercising.
If you have asthma or other breathing problems that require an inhaler, you should bring it with you to the test. Make sure to tell the technician that you use an inhaler.
What to expect: The technician giving you the test will apply electrodes to your arms, chest and legs to record your heartbeat. He or she will also put a blood pressure cuff on your arm. After a conversation about your regular physical activity levels, the technician will ask you to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. During the test, the technician will make changes to speed, inclination and/or resistance to record how your heart performs with the additional challenges.
The length of your test will depend on your overall fitness level and symptoms. Generally, the goal is to work your heart for about eight to 12 minutes. You will be asked to continue exercising until your heart rate reaches a target set by the technician or until you develop symptoms that prevent you from continuing.
Your technician will discuss any other requirements for your stress test in greater detail at the time of your test.
Results: Your technician cannot provide a diagnosis or the test results. Your doctor will schedule an appointment to discuss the results and next steps with you.