Helpful Patient Instructions to Know Before Diagnostic Testing


Diagnostic testing is a common part of healthcare at UPMC Western Maryland . While you can describe your symptoms to your doctor, it’s especially helpful for him or her to get a glimpse of what is happening inside of your body, whether it’s a blood test, X-ray, cardiac catheterization, or another type of diagnostic test. In many cases, the results of diagnostic testing are the missing piece of the puzzle that enables your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. This is necessary so you can begin the right course of treatment and start feeling better.

It’s normal to feel somewhat anxious before a diagnostic test. Not only do you feel concerned about what the test might reveal, you may not know how to prepare for it either. While we can’t predict your test results, we can help put your mind at ease by letting you know how to prepare for a diagnostic test at UPMC Western Maryland.

Cardiology Tests

Your doctor may order one of several types of cardiology tests to determine if your heart beats in a normal rhythm if you have a blockage of blood flow or another common but serious cardiac issue. With some of these tests, you should not eat or drink anything for up to eight hours in advance. In that case, scheduling it for first thing in the morning after you have had a good night’s sleep is ideal.

However, some cardiac tests have no restrictions on eating or drinking. The person who schedules the appointment for you will discuss specific restrictions for the type of cardiac test you need to have. Some tests require you to discontinue using medication the day before as well.

Since some of these tests require significant physical exertion, you should prepare by dressing in loose, comfortable clothing and leaving rings, necklaces, and watches at home. The more comfortable you are, the longer you can endure the stress test or other cardiac test and the more accurate results your doctor will obtain. If you know that your test will require physical exertion, consider scheduling it at a time when your energy is highest.

Your referring doctor or a nurse that works with him or her will provide your results by phone within a few days. Depending on the test, we may also be able to release the results to your electronic medical record sooner than that. If the test revealed anything abnormal, we will let you know the next steps in your treatment plan. For normal results, we will likely take a wait and see approach without prescribing a specific course of treatment. However, you may need to repeat the same cardiology test if symptoms return or get worse.

Imaging Tests

Most imaging tests, such as a mammogram or ultrasound, don’t require any food or drink restrictions. This gives you a bit more flexibility in determining which time of the day is best to schedule your test. If you’re female, the technician does need to know if there’s any possibility you could be pregnant to avoid possible radiation damage to a developing fetus. The ultrasound test typically requires the most preparation as patients may need to drink several glasses of water before the appointment.

It’s important that you’re comfortable for these types of tests and that the technician can see the images from inside of your body clearly. You should avoid wearing jewelry for this reason. If you’re having a mammogram, the instructions normally include not to apply deodorant that morning. We understand that some patients experience anxiety with imaging tests, particularly the MRI if you’re claustrophobic. Please don’t hesitate to speak up and let us know what you need to ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible during your imaging test.

Laboratory Testing

The fasting blood test tends to be the most common and accurate type of laboratory blood test. When you haven’t eaten in 10 to 12 hours, it’s easier to detect problems through a blood test. If you need to perform this type of testing, try to go to bed as early as possible to get your mind off food until after your test the next day. Scheduling the blood draw for first thing in the morning is a good idea as well. You may need to eat a small meal or drink water if you’re diabetic, but your referring provider will let you know the exact instructions to follow.

You don’t need any special preparation for a urine or stool test. Just keep in mind that your first urine in the morning is the most concentrated and therefore can be the most useful in diagnosis. Try not to consume too much liquid because it could make your urine diluted and difficult for the technicians to obtain a result.

Trust UPMC Western Maryland for Your Diagnostic Testing Needs

We like to make things easy for our patients at UPMC Western Maryland. This is the reason that we have one centralized scheduling system for all types of diagnostic testing. You may call 240-964-8888 or toll-free at 866-369-1112 to request an appointment. If you have additional questions about your specific type of test, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Contact us today.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.