Radiology Department | MRI, X-Ray, Ultrasound, and CT in Waterford | UPMC Whitfield Hospital

Diagnostic Imaging at UPMC Whitfield Hospital

State-of-the-art imaging, including X-Ray, MRI, Ultrasound, and one of the most advanced CT scanners in the South East.

Our radiology services include fast scheduling and quick reporting. Some results can be reviewed and sent to your doctor the same day.

X-Ray is available by appointment upon receipt of referral from your doctor.

UPMC Whitfield Hospital offers quick and easy access for MRI scan appointments.

To book an MRI scan, you will need a letter of referral from your doctor. This can be your GP or consultant, from UPMC Whitfield or elsewhere.

Once we review your letter or referral, we will contact you with our next available appointment. We try to keep waiting times to a minimum and offer late evening and weekend appointments, where possible.

Generally speaking, MRI scans are covered by most major insurers, including VHI, Laya, Aviva, and Glo Health. This means that you will not have to pay when you attend your appointment. You will simply be asked to complete and sign a form, which we will send back to your insurer.

For those without health insurance, MRI scans costs start from €200.

  • Call our MRI department on 051 337 466
  • Send us your MRI referral letter or card:
    • Via email to
    • Via post to Radiology Department, UPMC Whitfield Hospital, Cork Road, Waterford
    • Via fax to 051 337 419

An MRI Scan is a pain-free scan of a certain part of the body. It works by using magnetic resonance imaging.

The scanner can be noisy, which is why we give you headphones. These headphones also allow our radiographer to communicate with you while you’re having your scan.

You will need to complete a questionnaire before having an MRI scan. This is to ensure that we are aware of any medical device you may have had inserted during any previous treatments. These include:

  • Internal (implanted) defibrillators or pacemakers
  • Cochlear (ear) implants
  • Surgical clips such as those used on brain aneurysms
  • Artificial heart valves
  • Implanted electronic devices, such as cardiac pacemakers
  • Artificial limbs or metallic joints
  • Implanted nerve stimulators
  • Pins, screws, plates, stents or surgical staples

Having one or other of these medical devices may mean that you cannot have an MRI scan, but don’t worry, there are other options available to you.

It is important to tell your radiographer if you have had any metal fragments lodged in your eyes or body. In some cases, you may need an X-ray before an MRI scan to make sure you are safe to enter the scanner.

Your results will be sent to whoever referred you, usually within three working days. You should always check back with that doctor, who will give your results and discuss the next steps.

Ultrasound is a high-frequency sound that you cannot hear, but can be emitted and detected by special machines.

  • Ultrasound travels freely through fluid and soft tissues. However, ultrasound is reflected back (as echoes) when it hits a more solid (dense) surface.

    For example, the ultrasound will travel freely through blood in a heart chamber. But, when it hits a solid valve, a lot of the ultrasound echoes back. Another example is when ultrasound travels though bile in a gallbladder, it will echo back strongly if it hits a solid gallstone.

    So, as ultrasound hits different structures of different density in the body, it sends back echoes of varying strength.

You lie on a couch and an operator places a probe on your skin over the part of your body to be examined. The probe is a bit like a very thick blunt pen.

Lubricating jelly is put on your skin so that the probe makes good contact with your body. The probe is connected by a wire to the ultrasound machine, which is linked to a monitor.

Pulses of ultrasound are sent from the probe through the skin into your body. The ultrasound waves then echo (‘bounce back’) from the various structures in the body.

The echoes are detected by the probe and are sent down the wire to the ultrasound machine. They are displayed as a picture on the monitor.

The picture is constantly updated so the scan can show movement as well as structure, e.g. the valves of a heart opening and closing during a scan of the heart.

The operator moves the probe around the surface of the skin to get views from different angles.

The scan is painless and takes about 15-45 minutes, depending on which parts of the body are being examined. A record of the results of the test can be made as still pictures or video recording.

Ultrasounds are used in many situations. The way the ultrasound bounces back from different tissues can help to determine the size, shape and consistency of organs, structures and abnormalities.

So, ultrasounds can:

  • Detect abnormalities of heart structures such as the heart valves (an ultrasound scan of the heart is called an echocardiogram)
  • Help to diagnose problems of the liver, gallbladder (such as gallstones), pancreas, thyroid gland, lymph nodes, ovaries, testes, kidneys, bladder and breast. For example, it can help to determine if an abnormal lump in one of these organs is a solid tumor or a fluid-filled cyst
  • Detect abnormal widening of blood vessels (aneurysms)

Usually there is only dietary preparation required, mainly if we are scanning the abdomen and pelvis.

Continue to take your usual medication. You should eat and drink normally before and after the test unless otherwise instructed. For example:

  • If certain parts of the tummy (abdomen) are being examined, you may be asked to eat a low-fibre diet for a day or so before the test (to minimise ‘gas’ in your gut)
  • You may be asked not to eat for several hours before a scan of the abdomen
  • To scan the bladder or pelvis, you may be asked to drink some fluid before the test so that you have a full bladder

You will be told what you need to do before any particular scan.

These scans are painless and safe. They have not been found to cause any problems or complications.

X-rays are a type of high-energy radiation. An X-ray machine can produce short bursts of X-rays.

The rays pass easily through fluids and soft tissues of the body. However, dense tissue such as bone will block some of the X-rays.

The denser the tissue, the less X-rays pass through. Air and water are less dense because the particles which make them are not held closely together.

  • The X-ray machine fires a short burst of X-rays through part of your body.

    The X-rays hits a detector, similar to the use of a digital camera, and an image is seen on the monitor.

    So, dense parts of the body which block many of the X-rays show up as white (such as bones), hollow or air-filled parts of the body show up as black (such as parts of the lung).

    Soft tissues (such as muscle and body organs) show up as various shades of grey, depending on how dense they are.

    An ordinary X-ray test is painless. You cannot see or feel X-rays. You should stay still when the X-ray beam is ‘fired’, as otherwise the picture may be blurred.

  • Bones, bone fractures, and other abnormalities of bone
  • Joint spaces and some abnormalities of joints, such as osteoarthritis
  • The size and shape of the heart, so certain heart conditions can be detected
  • Changes in the density of some softer tissues, e.g. a lung tumor is denser than an air-filled lung and will show as a ‘shadow’ on a chest X-ray
  • Collections of fluid, e.g. in the lung or gut – may show as grey ‘shadows’ against the normal black of the air-filled chest, or hollow gut

An ordinary X-ray is a quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive test. It may be all that is needed to diagnose or assess various problems.

However, an ordinary X-ray has limited use. More sophisticated ‘contrast’ X-rays, CT scans, or other imaging techniques may be needed for accurate or further assessment of certain body parts, particularly of soft tissues and organs such as the brain or liver.

There is very little risk with having one X-ray test.

However, with repeated tests there is a risk that the X-rays may damage some cells in the body.

The dose of X-ray radiation is always kept to the minimum needed to get a good picture of the particular body part being checked.

Pregnant women, if possible, should not have an X-ray test, as there is a small risk that X-rays may cause an abnormality to the unborn child. This is why women are asked before having an X-ray if they are, or might be, pregnant.

A CT scan, also known as a CAT scan, is a specialised X-ray test. It can give very clear pictures of the inside of your body. At UPMC Whitfield Hospital, we offer one of the most advanced CT machines in the South East.

In particular, it can give good pictures of soft tissues of the body which do not show on ordinary X-ray pictures.

CT stands for computerised tomography and CAT for computed axial tomography. They are the same thing.

The CT scanner looks like a giant thick ring. Within the wall of the scanner there is an X-ray source. Opposite the X-ray source, on the other side of the ring, are X-ray detectors.

You lie on a couch which slides into the centre of the ring until the part of the body to be scanned is within the ring.

The X-ray machine within the ring rotates around your body. As it rotates around, the X-ray machine emits thin beams of X-rays through your body, which are detected by the X-ray detectors.

The detectors detect the strength of the X-ray beam that has passed through your body. The denser the tissue, the less X-rays pass through. The X-ray detectors feed this information into a computer.

Different types of tissue with different densities show up as a picture on the computer monitor, in different colours or shades of grey. So, in effect, a picture is created by the computer of a slice (cross-section) of a thin section of your body.

As the couch moves slowly through the ring, the X-ray beam passes through the next section of your body. So, several cross-sectional pictures (slices) of the part of your body being investigated are made by the computer.

A CT scan can be carried out on any section of the head or body. It can give clear pictures of bones. It also gives clear pictures of soft tissues which an ordinary X-ray test cannot show, such as muscles, organs, large blood vessels, the brain and nerves.

X-rays can be used:

  • To detect abnormalities in the body, such as tumors, abscesses, abnormal blood vessels etc. when they are suspected by symptoms or other tests
  • To give a surgeon a clear picture of an area of your body before certain types of surgery
  • To pinpoint the exact site of tumors prior to radiotherapy
  • To help doctors find the right place to take biopsies (tissue samples)

Very little preparation is usually required; it depends on which part of your body is to be scanned.

You will be given instructions by the CT department appropriate for the scan to be done.

As a general rule, you will need to remove any metal objects from your body, such as jewelry, hair clips, etc. It is best not to wear clothes with metal zips, studs, etc.

You may be asked not to eat or drink for a few hours before your scan, depending on the part of your body to be scanned.

If you need an injection of contrast, as described below, it may be necessary to stop certain medicines after the procedure.

In some situations, depending on what part of the body is being scanned, one of the following may be needed:

For abdominal and pelvic scans, you may be asked to have a special drink before the scan. This takes about an hour before the scan is performed. This helps to show up the stomach and bowel more clearly.

Usually an x-ray dye (contrast medium) is injected into the bloodstream via a vein in your arm. The dye may give you a flushing feeling and an odd taste in your mouth, which soon goes.

The CT scan itself is painless. You cannot see or feel X-rays. You will be asked to stay as still as possible, otherwise the scan pictures may be blurred. The scan can take between 5-10 minutes, depending on which part (or parts) of the body is being scanned.

Are there any possible complications?

Rarely, some people have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye which is sometimes used. This can be treated immediately.

Very rarely the dye may cause some kidney damage, most commonly in people already known to have kidney problems. If there is any doubt a blood test can be done to check that the kidneys are working well and that your kidneys will not have any problems with the use of the x-ray dye.

Pregnant women and CT scans

If possible, pregnant women should not have a CT scan, as there is a small risk that X-rays may cause an abnormality to the unborn child. If you are of child bearing age, you will be asked if there is any possibility of you being pregnant. If it is possible, the test will most likely be deferred.

Rarely, some people have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye which is sometimes used. This can be treated immediately.

Very rarely the dye may cause some kidney damage, most commonly in people already known to have kidney problems. If there is any doubt a blood test can be done to check that the kidneys are working well and that your kidneys will not have any problems with the use of the x-ray dye.

If possible, pregnant women should not have a CT scan, as there is a small risk that X-rays may cause an abnormality to the unborn child. If you are of child bearing age, you will be asked if there is any possibility of you being pregnant. If it is possible, the test will most likely be deferred.

CT scans use X-rays, which are a type of radiation. 

The dose of X-ray radiation needed for a CT scan is much more than for a single X-ray picture, but is still generally quite a low dose.

The risk of harm from the dose of radiation used in CT scanning is thought to be very small, but it is not totally without risk.

As a general rule, the higher the dose, the greater the risk. So, for example, the larger the part of the body scanned, the greater the radiation dose.

Repeat CT scans over time cause an overall increase of dose. Because of this, all CT requests are reviewed by the consultant radiologist to ensure that the test is appropriate for the questions being asked.

Please be aware that UPMC Whitfield DEXA Scanner is located on the ground floor of the WIT Arena, Carriganore, Co. Waterford X91 XD96, not at UPMC Whitfield Hospital.

A DEXA scan (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan is a non-invasive and pain free scan that can provide you with either

  • an in-depth analysis of your body composition or
  • measure bone density and loss.

DEXA scans for body composition use low energy x-rays. As the x-rays pass through your body they are absorbed at different rates by the various tissues, which helps us to determine the type and quantity of the main components of the body (fat, lean tissue and bone). DEXA scanning is considered the gold standard for measuring body composition in sports medicine.

DEXA scans for bone density use low energy x-rays. A detector measures the level of x-rays that come through the bone; this information scores the average density of bone in the area scanned. A low score indicates that the bone is less dense than it should be and is more prone to fracture. It is important to note that a DEXA scan does NOT produce images comparable to conventional x rays (for example a hip or spine x-ray); it will not show the presence of arthritis or a fracture. DEXA scans are more often used to diagnose osteoporosis.

In order to book a DEXA scan for either body composition or bone density, you will need a referral letter from your doctor. For more information, please contact us on 051 376827 or

A DEXA scan involves you lying flat on your back on an X-ray table. During the scan, a large scanning arm will be passed over your body: you will not need to go into a tunnel or have an injection. All you have to do is stay as still as possible and breathe as normal while the scan is in progress. The scan takes approximately 15-20 minutes.

Preparing for a DEXA scan for either body composition or bone density

In preparation for your scan and to assure the most accurate results please follow these instructions:

  • No training or exercise in the 24hrs before your scan.
  • You need to fast for 3-4 hours before your scan. If you have an early morning booking it is best to fast overnight.
  • Maintain adequate hydration – dehydration can affect your results.
  • You should wear light clothing for the scan. All clothes (including underwear) must be metal free – no zips, buttons, fasteners, underwires etc.
  • Do not take calcium supplementation 24hrs prior to the scan. All other medication can be taken as normal and as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Please bring a list of your medications with you if possible.

DEXA scans for body composition

Your doctor may suggest you should have a DEXA scan for body composition for the following reasons:

  • Monitoring for weight loss or weight gain programmes.
  • Monitoring of athletes’ training regimens and nutritional programmes so that they result in the optimal body composition for performance.
  • Monitoring lean mass balance in athletes to help avoid injury.
  • Aiding in rehabilitation programmes and helping adapt rehab training programmes and nutritional plans to reflect the body’s specific needs during recovery.
  • Examining body composition as it can be an important risk factor in a number of serious diseases such as obesity, wasting syndromes, cystic fibrosis, chronic renal failure and anorexia nervosa, among others.

DEXA scans for bone density

Some of the reasons why your doctor may suggest that you should have a DEXA scan are:

  • Perimenopause/post menopause.
  • Personal or family history of fractures (in particular hip).
  • Medications that are known to contribute to bone loss.
  • Have a personal or family history of osteoporosis, diabetes, liver or renal disease.
  • Loss of height due to vertebral fractures.
  • Change in hormones, whether age-related or medication induced.

A DEXA scan involves a very low dose of radiation (in the form of x-rays). This dose is considered very low and is less than the level of natural background radiation that we are exposed to in about 2 days, and a fraction of the dose given by a chest X-ray.

There are no side effects associated with the scan. You may return to normal activities immediately.

You should NOT have a DEXA scan if:

  • There is any possibility that you could be pregnant
  • You have had a CT scan or nuclear medicine scan that involved an oral or IV contract in the past 14 days.
  • If you are unable to remain motionless or lie flat for the duration of the scan.

If you are immobile and cannot weight bear or require a hoist transfer please contact the department before your appointment so we can make appropriate arrangements

DEXA scan for body composition:

A report of your body composition analysis will be provided to you before your leave the department.

This report along with the scan images will be sent to your referring doctor who may contact you to go through the results in more detail.

DEXA scan for bone density:
An electronic report is generated using computerised calculations conducted by the scanner which will be reviewed by the reporting doctor / radiologist.

This report will be forwarded to the doctor who referred you for the DEXA scan (hospital consultant or GP) the following working day. Reports should take no longer than four to five days to be delivered. 

Please contact your doctor’s office for results if you have not heard from them within 14 days.

Contact Details

Radiology Department

MRI: 051 337 466
X-Ray: 051 337 420
Ultrasound: 051 359 713
CT: 051 359 713

eReferrals: Your GP can send an instant referral to our radiology department via their Healthlinks system

Consultants in Radiology

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Telephone: 051 337 400
Telephone: 051 337 400

Telephone: 045 982300

Telephone: 056-7775275
Telephone: 051 337 444

Telephone: 051 359 757

Carlow Outreach Centre
Telephone: 059 9140236