Merck Manual

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Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnostic Procedures

Procedure

Body Area or Sample Tested

Description

Amniocentesis

Fluid from the sac surrounding the fetus

Analysis of fluid, removed by a needle inserted through the abdominal wall, to detect an abnormality in the fetus

Arteriography (angiography)

Any artery in the body, commonly in the brain, heart, kidneys, aorta, or legs

X-ray study using radiopaque dye injected through a thin tube (catheter), which is threaded to the artery being studied, to detect and outline or highlight a blockage or defect in an artery

Audiometry

Ears

Assessment of the ability to hear and distinguish sounds at specific pitches and volumes using headphones

Auscultation

Heart

Listening with a stethoscope for abnormal heart sounds

Barium x-ray studies

Esophagus, stomach, intestine, or rectum

X-ray study to detect ulcers, tumors, or other abnormalities

Biopsy

Any tissue in the body

Removal and examination of a tissue sample under a microscope to check for cancer or another abnormality

Blood pressure measurement

Usually an arm

Test for high or low blood pressure, usually using an inflatable cuff wrapped around the arm

Blood tests

Usually a blood sample from an arm

Measurement of substances in the blood to evaluate organ function and to help diagnose and monitor various disorders

Bone marrow aspiration

Hipbone or breastbone

Removal of a bone marrow sample by a needle for examination under a microscope to check for abnormalities in blood cells

Bronchoscopy

Airways of the lungs

Direct examination with a viewing tube to check for a tumor or other abnormality

Cardiac catheterization

Heart

Study of heart function and structure using a catheter inserted into a blood vessel and threaded to the heart

Chorionic villus sampling

Placenta

Removal of a sample for examination under a microscope to check for abnormalities in the fetus

Chromosomal analysis

Blood

Examination under a microscope to detect a genetic disorder or to determine a fetus’s sex

Colonoscopy

Large intestine

Direct examination with a viewing tube to check for a tumor or other abnormality

Colposcopy

Cervix

Direct examination of the cervix with a magnifying lens

Computed tomography (CT)

Any part of the body

Computer-enhanced x-ray study to detect structural abnormalities

Cone biopsy

Cervix

Removal and examination of a cone-shaped piece of tissue, usually using a heated wire loop or a laser

Culture

A sample from any area of the body (usually a fluid such as blood or urine)

Growth and examination of microorganisms from the sample to identify infection with bacteria or fungi

Dilation and curettage (D and C)

Cervix and uterus

Examination of a sample under a microscope to check for abnormalities in the uterine lining using a small, sharp instrument (curet).

Dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA)

Skeleton, focusing on specific regions, usually the hip, spine, and wrist

Low-dose x-ray study to determine the thickness of bones

Echocardiography

Heart

Study of heart structure and function using sound waves

Electrocardiography (ECG)

Heart

Study of the heart’s electrical activity using electrodes attached to the arms, legs, and chest

Electroencephalography (EEG)

Brain

Study of the brain’s electrical function using electrodes attached to the scalp

Electromyography

Muscles

Recording of a muscle’s electrical activity using small needles inserted into the muscle

Electrophysiologic testing

Heart

Test to evaluate rhythm or electrical conduction abnormalities using a catheter inserted into a blood vessel and threaded to the heart

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Biliary tract

X-ray study of the biliary tract done after injection of a radiopaque dye and using a flexible viewing tube

Endoscopy

Digestive tract

Direct examination of internal structures using a flexible viewing tube

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)

Usually blood

Test that involves mixing the sample of blood with substances that can trigger allergies (allergens) or with microorganisms to test for the presence of specific antibodies

Fluoroscopy

Digestive tract, heart, or lungs

A continuous x-ray study that enables a doctor to see the inside of an organ as it functions

Hysteroscopy

Uterus

Direct examination of the inside of the uterus with a flexible viewing tube

Intravenous urography

Kidneys and urinary tract

X-ray study of the kidneys and urinary tract after a radiopaque dye is injected into a vein (intravenously)

Joint aspiration

Joints, especially those of the shoulders, elbows, fingers, hips, knees, ankles, and toes

Removal and examination of fluid from the space within joints to check for blood cells, crystals formed from minerals, and microorganisms

Laparoscopy

Abdomen

Direct examination using a viewing tube inserted through an incision in the abdomen to diagnose and treat abnormalities in the abdomen

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Any part of the body

Imaging test using a strong magnetic field and radio waves to check for structural abnormalities

Mammography

Breasts

X-ray study to check for breast cancer

Mediastinoscopy

Chest

Direct examination of the area of the chest between the lungs using a viewing tube inserted through a small incision just above the breastbone

Myelography

Spinal column

Simple or computer-enhanced x-ray study of the spinal column after injection of a radiopaque dye

Nerve conduction study

Nerves

Test to determine how fast a nerve impulse travels using electrodes or needles inserted along the path of the nerve

Occult blood test

Large intestine

Test to detect blood in stool

Ophthalmoscopy

Eyes

Direct examination using a handheld device that shines light into the eye to detect abnormalities inside the eye

Papanicolaou (Pap) test

Cervix

Examination of cells scraped from the cervix under a microscope to detect cancer

Paracentesis

Abdomen

Insertion of a needle into the abdominal cavity to remove fluid for examination

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography

Liver and biliary tract

X-ray study of the liver and biliary tract after a radiopaque dye is injected into the liver

Positron emission tomography (PET)

Brain and heart

Imaging test using particles that release radiation (positrons) to detect abnormalities in function

Pulmonary function tests

Lungs

Tests to measure the lungs’ capacity to hold air, to move air in and out of the body, and to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide as people blow into a measuring device

Radionuclide imaging

Many organs

Imaging test using particles that release radiation (radionuclides) to detect abnormalities in blood flow, structure, or function

Reflex tests

Tendons

Tests using a physical stimulus (such as a light tap) to detect abnormalities in nerve function

Retrograde urography

Bladder and ureters

X-ray study of the bladder and ureters after a radiopaque dye is inserted into the ureter

Sigmoidoscopy

Rectum and last portion of the large intestine

Direct examination using a viewing tube to detect tumors or other abnormalities

Skin allergy tests

Usually an arm or the back

Tests for allergies done by placing a solution containing a possible allergen on the skin, then pricking the skin with a needle

Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)

Spinal canal

Removal of spinal fluid, using a needle inserted into the hipbone, to check for abnormalities in spinal fluid

Spirometry

Lungs

Test of lung function that involves blowing into a measuring device

Stress testing

Heart

Test of heart function during exertion using a treadmill or other exercise machine and electrocardiography (if people cannot exercise, a drug is used to simulate exercise’s effects)

Thoracentesis

The space between the pleura, a two-layered membrane that covers the lungs and lines the chest wall (pleural space)

Removal of fluid from this space with a needle to detect abnormalities

Thoracoscopy

Lungs

Examination of the lung surfaces, pleura, and pleural space through a viewing tube

Tympanometry

Ears

Measurement of the resistance to pressure (impedance) in the middle ear using a device inserted in the ear and sound waves to help determine the cause of hearing loss

Ultrasonography (ultrasound scanning)

Any part of the body

Imaging using sound waves to detect structural or functional abnormalities

Urinalysis

Kidneys and urinary tract

Chemical analysis of a urine sample to detect protein, sugar, ketones, and blood cells

Venography

Veins

X-ray study using a radiopaque dye (similar to arteriography) to detect blockage of a vein