What are diagnostic tests in healthcare?


Diagnostic tests help healthcare professionals determine the presence of an injury, growth, or disease and provide a good starting point for a treatment plan. These tests are usually performed in hospitals, clinics, or physician’s offices and are used in most of the world. There are many diagnostic tests available, ranging from simple blood tests to those that are performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but for many of us, those listed below are the ones we are most familiar with. 

Common diagnostic tests include:


These are the most common of diagnostic tests and are used to take a picture of the internal bones and organs of the body. X-rays detect broken bones or fractures, foreign objects in the body, and causes of pain. These tests also help monitor the progression of a particular disease and the effectiveness of a treatment. 


These tests are used to scan the breasts for cancer or monitor the progression of the disease in individuals who are already afflicted. Diagnostic mammograms and screening mammograms are used to detect breast cancer. Screening mammograms can detect signs of breast cancer early, and diagnostic mammograms are used to scan the specific area of the breast that has a lump or growth. 

Computed tomography (CT) scan 

A CT scan require the patient to lie down on a table as they provide a large, cross-section image of the area in question. These scans are a higher resolution than X-rays and are used to see the detail in soft tissue. Some people do not like them because they use radiation to perform the scan, so they opt for the MRI instead. 

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 

MRIs are used as an alternative to CT scans and use radio waves instead of radiation to take the scan. The radio waves have magnetic fields, which make them attractive to those who do not want to be exposed to radiation, but they do take quite a bit longer.


An ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to generate images of vessels and organs without harmful radiation. These are the choice of scan for pregnant women to monitor the development of the fetus. Nurses in certain areas can apply ultrasounds for patients. When you pursue furthering your education by getting an online DNP program after master’s degree from a reputable online university, then you can achieve other diagnostic responsibilities. 

A post-master’s DNP can help prepare you to advance your career as a practice nurse, developing key leadership skills and clinical placement experience. Many of these courses, such as the DNP degree at the University of Indianapolis, also follow a part time, online format to help working nurses complete their studies while balancing a full-time career. 

Positron emission tomography (PET) 

A PET scan is used to help diagnose issues at the cellular level by using radioactive tracers in the body. This scan is helpful in revealing problems that may otherwise be undetectable. 

Blood sugar test 

This type of test is used to determine whether an individual has diabetes and if it is type 1 or type 2. The test is very common and can be used for pregnant women who present with gestational diabetes as well.  

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Diagnostic tests are invaluable in diagnosing diseases, health conditions, injuries and monitoring existing ailments. Depending on where you live, these tests may be performed by a designated technician or a doctor. Having such a variety of different testing options helps to improve patient care and health outcomes for unwell patients.