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Radiologists Answer Patient’s Top Questions About Abdominal MRI

Abdominal MRI is a fantastic diagnostic tool. But, unless you practice medicine, it is quite common to feel lost in translation when you receive your results.

Radiology reports often contain unfamiliar medical terminology and, sometimes, incidental findings that aren't necessarily a cause for concern. This can make it difficult to decipher exactly what your abdominal MRI results mean. To find out how patients can better understand their reports, we spoke with two abdominal subspecialty radiologists, Dr. Richard Semelka and Dr. Luther Adair, who provide second opinions through DocPanel. Here, they share their answers to the most common questions and concerns patients have about their abdominal MRI scans.

DocPanel is committed to providing radiology second opinions as specialized as the human body. Upload your scans, connect with the best-suite subspecialist, and have your questions answered by a leading radiologist in the US. Learn more here.

Most Common Questions Patients Have About Their Abdominal MRI

1. Is the lesion(s) in my liver benign or is it cancer?

By, Dr. Richard Semelka, Abdominal Imaging Specialist and Radiologist at DocPanel

The question patients ask me the most about their abdominal MRI is - Is the lesion(s) in my liver benign, or is it cancer?

Fortunately, the answer is usually that the lesion is not cancer, as benign liver lesions are quite common. Cysts, biliary hamartomas, hemangiomas, and focal nodular hyperplasia are the types of benign liver lesions that we see the most. But determining the type of liver lesion can be very tricky, requiring the skill of an experienced specialist. Hence why this is such a common (and important) question.

Abdominal MRI is unmatched in its ability to both detect liver lesions (identify their presence) and determine what they are (characterize them). Oftentimes, a well-performed MRI is even more accurate than pathology. This is why patients are typically sent to get an abdominal MRI after having undergone an ultrasound or CT. When reading abdominal MRI scans, whether it be an initial read or a second opinion, a benign liver lesion diagnosis is the message I am most fond of delivering. There are invariably months of agonized worrying that patients go through after the initial test, say an ultrasound, tells them a liver lesion is present. Because, usually, an ultrasound or CT does not provide an answer as to whether or not it’s cancer. Tragically, the results sometimes go the other way and an MRI of the abdomen will show the lesion is cancer. In the end, though, it’s always best to know the truth - and best to know as early as possible. Just because it is cancer does not mean it is a death sentence. If caught early (which abdominal MRI can do) most cancers can be treated in some fashion, and a number can be cured.

2. Am I okay?

By, Dr. Luthar Adair, Abdominal Imaging Specialist and Radiologist at DocPanel

When it comes to asking questions about your health - one of the most important things to remember is that there are no bad questions. Unfortunately, when it comes to radiology, patients do not typically have an opportunity to speak directly with their radiologist. Getting a second opinion is a great way to change this narrative and get peace of mind.

When I interpret a second opinion case, the most common questions that arise are, in essence, twofold: “Am I okay?” and “Did they get this right?” The ‘am I okay’ can come from concerns about something they read online about a word or phrase they saw in the report they received from their doctor. It can come in the form of the patient stating their symptoms and wanting to ensure that the part of the body we are looking at is normal. It may even be because something was found on the prior interpretation, but they want to know how concerning it is. The opportunity to add clarity is very rewarding because, as a physician, one of the best things we get to do is to offer reassurance when things get confusing.

3. Did they get this right?

By, Dr. Luthar Adair, Abdominal Imaging Specialist and Radiologist at DocPanel

The ‘did they get this right?’ question is usually a second opinion on something that was found by another radiologist. This can range from a finding that is only slightly concerning to something that requires treatment. In all second opinions that I perform, I interpret the study and create a full report addressing all of the visualized body parts. In a separate section, I make sure that I specifically address any questions the patient has in layman's terms.

While we might not always find something that another radiologist missed, we may be able to clarify what the images show, offering increased confidence that the scan was interpreted accurately and that any findings are relevant. At the end of the day, radiologists are consultants; our product is our communication. With second opinions, we aim to take that a step further - addressing concerns head-on in a way that patients can feel comfortable that their issues have been addressed.

About the Contributing Radiologists:

Richard Semelka, MD is an abdominal subspeciality radiologist with over 28 years of experience. He completed a fellowship in body imaging at UCSF and has written over 16 textbooks, 370 peer-reviewed papers, and has over 21,000 research citations in abdominal imaging. Dr. Semelka was tenured faculty and the director of MR services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1992 to 2017. He specializes in the detection of abdominal and pelvic cancers.

Luther B Adair, II, MD Dr. Adair is an abdominal subspecialty radiologist and principal owner of a private practice radiology group called, Nashville Radiology Partners. Based in Las Vegas, NV, Dr. Adiar's practice provides diagnostic radiology services for hospitals in New York, the Midwest, and New England. In addition to abdominal radiology, Dr. Adair has an interest in chest imaging, vascular imaging, and machine learning.

Interested in getting a second opinion from Dr. Semelka, Dr.Adair, or one of our other subspecialists? Learn more here.

In this article...

Most Common Questions Patients Have About Their Abdominal MRI 1. Is the lesion(s) in my liver benign or is it cancer? 2. Am I okay? 3. Did they get this right? About the Contributing Radiologists: