With the state of Auckland (and even Queenstown) traffic these days, the simple act of visiting the doctor can take a huge chunk out of your day. We also acknowledge (and apologise) that the nature of our work means that sometimes we can’t run on time. That’s why we don’t take your time for granted, so when we ask you to arrange a follow up after your scans (usually after an MRI) we do it for very good reasons. There are a number of reasons why we don’t simply give out your MRI results over the phone or via email.
MRIs are costly, and so we don’t order them lightly. There is no point ordering these tests if we don’t see the process through properly and that means having a follow up in person. We want you to leave an appointment at Axis with a clear diagnosis because without a diagnosis we can’t formulate a plan. More importantly, we want you to understand what that diagnosis means, and explaining diagnoses is not always easy to do. MRIs can often be great at assisting in this explanation, acting much like personalised anatomical models of your problem. A lot of patients will often remark not only about the amazing quality of the MRI images, but that seeing the images has helped them understand their situation better. Seeing the report only, or having no one take you through the images limits our ability to help explain your injury to you.
Secondly, we know that the MRI does not ‘tell us exactly what is going on’. In most cases, we are using it to confirm a working diagnosis. As we explained in ‘The Spin’ a few months back, MRIs can show lots of things that aren’t causing your problem. We know that almost 40% of 20 year olds without pain have an abnormal-looking lumbar disc, that almost 80% of 40 year olds without pain have an abnormal-looking bursa in their shoulder, that up to 70% of people without pain may have a cartilage tear in their hip, and that for knee cartilage (and menisci) that figure is approximately 60%. In short, we are Toyota Corollas – we keep on functioning well even when things may not look quite so flash under the bonnet. Therefore it is critically important, that we don’t just rely on the scan report to tell us the whole story. A picture does not paint a thousand words.
Following on from this, the language used in the scan report may have an impact on your recovery. Words like ‘tear,’ ‘degeneration,’ and ‘abnormal’ are often dotted throughout the report. When you’re in pain, these words can be understandably distressing, and there is now research that suggests these words may have an impact on your prognosis. Recent evidence has found that the patient’s expectation of how their recovery will transpire can be a significant factor in the success of that recovery. It goes to follow that the language used in imaging reports can affect those expectations. Words like ‘fracture’ and ‘defect’ mean slightly different things to radiologists than they do to the general public. Therefore, the scan report has the potential to be detrimental if it is taken at face value and read without the assistance of someone who can interpret that report in the correct clinical context.
So that’s why at Axis, we ask you to come back to have a follow up after your scans. We aren’t sadists who want you to spend more time in your car and deny you access to your medical information; we just want to make sure that you get the best care possible.