Digital Imaging and Radiology


Digital Imaging and Radiology is the area of medicine that uses X-rays, magnetic waves and ultrasound to obtain detailed images of the inside of the body. Doctors can then use those images to detect and diagnose illnesses and injuries, as well as to help develop treatment plans. Mitchell County Regional Health Center offers a wide range of services with quick access to images for radiologists and clinicians.


X-rays use small amounts of radiation to produce images of tissues, bones, and organs for diagnostic purposes. Your small tissues allow most of the X-ray to pass though, while a bone or tumor are classified as more dense tissues, which does not allow X-rays to pass though. Physicians can view a tumor or broken bone with the press of a button. The amount of radiation is minimal and very safe. This procedure takes 5-30 minutes.

*If you think you may be pregnant, please inform your physician or the technologist before your exam*

Before your procedure you may be asked to change into a gown or remove any metal you may be wearing.

CT Scanning

Computed Tomography, called CT or CAT scanning is a system that produces cross-sectional pictures of the body. In order to produce the images, you will be asked to lie on a table. This table moves into the donut-shaped hole in the center of the CT machine. The CT scanner then produces the images and sends them to a computer.

For many exams a colorless liquid called an iodine contrast is used to help highlight organs in the body. The iodine contrast is injected into a vein, usually in the arm. During the injection, many patients feel a warm/flushed sensation from the contrast. This procedure usually takes 30-60 minutes.

*If you have any known allergies to iodine contrast, please inform your physician or technologist prior to your exam*
*If you think you may be pregnant, please inform your physician or the technologist before your exam*

3-D Mammography

Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses low-dose radiation to make x-ray pictures of the internal breast tissue. Normally, two images of each breast will be taken. If you have breast implants, you can still have a mammogram, but four films of each breast will most likely be required. When the mammogram is completed you will be asked to wait until the technologist examines the images to determine if more are needed.

With 3D mammography, images of the breast are taken from multiple angles which help the radiologist see breast cancers earlier and provide better views through dense breast tissue. Clearer images also reduce the chance that a woman will be unnecessarily called back for a repeat test – something that can cause great anxiety.


During a mammogram a technologist will guide you to position your breasts for the exam. The breast is placed on a special platform and compressed with a paddle.

Breast compression is necessary in order to:

  • Even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be seen;
  • Spread out the tissue so that overlying breast tissue won’t block out small defects;
  • Hold the breast still in order to eliminate blurring of the picture caused by motion.
  • This procedure will take 30-40 minutes


Please do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam because this may appear on the mammogram film as calcium spots. Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the x-ray technologist performing the exam.


Every mammogram performed at MCRHC is read and interpreted by the Radiologists of North Iowa, located in Mason City.  This group of professionals reads and interprets mammogram images remotely most of the week, and rotates their time on site at MCRHC twice each week.  The Radiologists of North Iowa also read and interpret mammograms for Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa as well as the majority of Mercy Health Network Critical Access Hospitals across North Iowa.




Imaging of the breast allows detection of small tumors. When cancers are small, the woman has more treatment options.

The use of screening mammography increases the detection of small abnormal tissue growths confined to the milk ducts in the breast, called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). These early tumors rarely harm patients if they are removed at this stage and mammography is an excellent way to detect these tumors. It is also useful for detecting all types of breast cancer, including invasive ductal and invasive lobular cancer.

No radiation remains in a patient’s body after an x-ray examination.

X-rays usually have no side effects in the typical diagnostic range for this exam.

Large population studies have shown that screening with breast tomosynthesis results in improved breast cancer detection rates and fewer “call-backs,” instances where women are called back from screening for additional testing because of a potentially abnormal finding.

Breast mammography (tomosynthesis) may also result in:

  • earlier detection of small breast cancers that may be hidden on a conventional mammogram
  • greater accuracy in pinpointing the size, shape and location of breast abnormalities
  • fewer unnecessary biopsies or additional tests
  • greater likelihood of detecting multiple breast tumors
  • clearer images of abnormalities within dense breast tissue


There is always a slight chance of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.

The effective radiation dose for this procedure varies.

False Positive Mammograms. Five percent to 15 percent of screening mammograms require more testing such as additional mammograms or ultrasound. Most of these tests turn out to be normal. If there is an abnormal finding, a follow-up or biopsy may have to be performed. Most biopsies confirm that no cancer is present. The likelihood of false positive findings and negative biopsies is reduced when tomosynthesis imaging is used for screening and diagnostic mammographic examinations.

Women should always inform their physician or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.


Many insurance companies are providing coverage for 3D digital mammograms; however, you should contact your individual insurance carrier to obtain information on what services are covered by your individual policy.


A screening mammogram is considered a mammogram performed on a woman without any breast problems.  A diagnostic mammogram is defined as a mammogram that has been ordered because you or your doctor notices a breast problem.


Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of structures or organs inside the body. This test is performed by using a transducer (ultrasound wand) over the area of interest. An Ultrasound involves no radiation and is painless. This procedure takes 30-60 minutes.

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine uses a special camera to detect the concentration of very small amounts of radioactive materials injected into the blood or taken by mouth. This material is absorbed by different tissues and shows the functions and characteristics of the tissue or organ being studied. The dose of radiation is very low and decreases quickly. In fact, after 48 hours there will be no measurable radiation in your body.

What can Nuclear Medicine be used for?

  • Analyze kidney function
  • Image blood flow and function of the heart
  • Scan lungs for respiratory and blood-flow problems
  • Identify blockage of the gallbladder
  • Evaluate bones for fracture, infection, arthritis or tumor
  • Determine the presence or spread of cancer
  • Identify bleeding into the bowel
  • Locate the presence of infection


An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a system that uses a magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to create clear images of structures inside the body. MRI is most often used to image the brain, spine, chest, vascular system and musculoskeletal system, including the knee and shoulder. This procedure takes 40-60 minutes.


Fluoroscopy is a term that basically means “live” x-ray pictures. Think of Fluoroscopy as the Radiologist using an x-ray video camera to look at your insides. This is generally done to diagnose problems in digestive organs, such as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, or large intestine. Because the organs alone cannot be seen with x-ray, the technologist will give the patient barium solution so the Radiologist can see the area better.

What can Fluoroscopy be used for?

  • Barium Enema
  • Esophagram
  • Small Bowel Follow Through
  • UGI (Upper Gastro-Intestine)


Bone Density – DEXA Scan

After bones reach peak strength around age 30, they slowly but naturally weaken with age. Through aging alone or combined with other factors, osteoporosis can make bones so fragile they break without warning. For many, a minor fall or misstep causes the first sign of this silent disease—a painful, crippling fracture in the hip, back or wrist. Bone density test can help to calculate your risk of broken bones before injuring yourself.

MCRHC has been recognized as a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital by the Chartis Center for Rural Health. This is the fourth time MCRHC has received this national honor.

Awarded honorees are determined by the results of iVantage Health Analytics’ Hospital Strength INDEX®. To determine the 2024 list, the Chartis Center used the Hospital Strength Index, which assesses performance in eight areas: inpatient market share, outpatient market share, quality, outcomes, patient perspective, cost, charges, and financial efficiency.

Hospitals recognized as a Top 100 facility had one of the 100 highest overall scores among all rural and community and critical access hospitals nationally. There is no application process and recognition is solely based on performance data.

MCRHC previously received Top 100 honors in 2018, 2019 and 2023.