Many people that need urological care, or any medical care for that matter, may need to have one or more scans. There are many different types of scans and many people do not know what they actually do. Each of the medical scans work differently; some use radiation, whereas others use sound waves, radio waves or magnets. Your doctor will explain which scan is the best for your particular condition.

In this blog we will explain some of the most common scans. It is important to remember, if you have any questions before a scan your doctor or nurse will be more than happy to explain them.


An X-ray was the first form of scan and has been around for over 120 years. These are still used every day, helping to show problems with bones and abnormal tissue. X-ray beams can only travel through certain parts of the body and so help to provide internal images of the body dependent on these tissue properties   An X-ray scan uses a small amount of radiation; however, it is not an unsafe level for humans so you should not worry (you may have a similar radiation exposure on a long-haul plane journey).

CT scan

CT scans work in the same way as an X-ray however beams are rotated around the whole body to create a 3D image. This therefore gives more information than an X-ray. These scans can be performed very quickly and are often used in emergency cases to provide the doctor an immediate understanding of what might be happening.   They are often taken with and without an intravenous injection of a “contrast agent” which helps demonstrate the internal organs more clearly

Over the years, the way that CT scans are delivered has been improved to ensure that the patient receives as little radiation as possible however they still have a significant radiation exposure and should be used with caution particularly in the young.

MRI scan

MRI scans work in a completely different way to CT scans and X-ray’s; they use both radio waves and strong magnets. Once the MRI scan has been completed, software is used to create a 3D image that shows the different tissue types. An MRI scan is more commonly used to diagnose problems with the tissue, such as muscle problems, blood flow problems and cancerous diseases.

During the scan, the patient is required to sit still for a prolonged period of time.

Ultrasound scan

An ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to create images of the internal structures, this is the same scan that is used in pregnant women. The renal tract consists of the kidney, ureters, bladder and urethra. See more about renal tract ultrasound scans here.

These are just some of the most common scans that are used in urology.  The decision of which scan is the most appropriate for you will be discussed with you by your doctor.

If you would like to speak to our team about having scans or discussing scan results, please call us on 020 7224 5089 or email us on

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.