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What Are The Different Types of Diagnostic Tests Doctors Prescribe for Workers’ Compensation Injuries?

Employees who are injured while doing their job are entitled to seek medical care for their injuries provided they promptly notify their employer and have a compensable claim. In North Carolina and Virginia, employees have the right to seek a medical diagnosis and treatment for any injuries that are covered by the state workers’ compensation laws, assuming the claim is compensable. Most medical help, usually in an emergency room, begins with the doctor or nurse taking an oral history, conducting a physical examination, and then prescribing diagnostic tests.

The diagnostic tests that are prescribed vary depending on the type of injury involved and are typically ordered by the Authorized Treating Physician. Some diagnostic tests are prescribed to determine what type of injury or medical disorder a patient has. Other diagnostic tests are used to rule out certain injuries or causes so the diagnosis can be narrowed down to more likely specific injuries or disorders.

Some of the diagnostic tests that are regularly ordered are the following (with some exceptions for pregnancy):

  • X-rays. These tests are normally ordered to detect damage to any bones. X-rays are also called radiographs. X-rays are normally the first test a doctor orders for musculoskeletal problems. X-rays do involve the use of electromagnetic waves (radiation). The doctors, nurses, or X-ray staff should try to protect your body from as much radiation as possible.

    X-rays are normally taken from several different angles. In addition to examining bone disorders, X-rays can help show if there’s calcification. They may also help to show if there is a tumor. X-rays normally indicate disorders based on how light or dark certain parts of the X-ray are.

  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan. This imaging tool uses X-rays combined with computer technology to produce a cross-sectional body image that lets the physician see the shape, position, and size of certain parts of your body such as tissues, organs, and tumors. Employees/patients lie as still as possible on a special scanner table. An X-ray tube rotates around the patient. A contrast material or dye may be used. CT scans are normally done in a hospital or an outpatient diagnostic center. CT scans are used for trauma to the spinal cord, brain, head, chest, pelvis, or abdomen.


  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). This diagnostic also produces cross-sections of your body. There’s no radiation involved – unlike X-rays and CT scans. Instead, MRIs use magnetic fields and computer technology to take pictures of a worker’s bones and soft tissue. You should let your doctor know if you have a pacemaker or any metal objects such as metal implants. You’ll lie on a table that then moves into the MRI scanner. You must remain completely still for some period of time while the scan progresses. The MRI test uses a magnetic field which pulses radio waves to the part of your anatomy that needs to be examined. The radio waves cause the tissues in your body to resonate. It is painless, unless you are claustrophobic. There are machines known as open MRI” machines for people who have such conditions.


Computer technology then examines the rate at which your tendons, nerves, ligaments, and other body parts vibrate. The result is a two-dimensional picture.

MRIs are useful for examining meniscus tears, knee ligament tears, rotator cuff tears, bone tumors, herniated spinal disks, bones, and joints, the pelvis, the abdomen, the heart, and the spine.

MRIs, like CT scans, are performed at a hospital or a diagnostic center.

  • Ultrasound. This diagnostic test uses high-frequency soundwaves. The waves echo off your body. The procedure does not use radiation and should not be painful. It is sometimes used in shoulder injuries to see if there is a tear. A type of ultrasound known as a Doppler test is often used to examine if you have any blood clots.


  • Lumbar Discogram or discography. This is an imaging test used to evaluate back pain. During this test, dye is injected into the soft center of one or more discs. This injection will sometimes reproduce your back pain. Also, the dye moves into any cracks or holes in the disc’s exterior, which can be picked up on an X-ray or CT scan. The continued use of this test is somewhat controversial because it relies on patient subjective response and is not always accurate in pinpointing which disc or discs are the cause of a patient’s lumbar pain.


  • Bone scan. This test uses some radioactive material that is injected into one of your veins. The material is absorbed. A bone scan is used to determine if you have a fracture, a bone infection, or a bone tumor. The test examines your bones throughout your body. The scan is done a few hours after the material is injected.


  • An Electromyography or EMG test and Nerve Conduction Velocity Test (NCV). The EMG test measures muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of a muscle. Needles are inserted and the electrical activity is picked up by a machine. This test is also often performed in conjunction with a Nerve Conduction Velocity test. The NCV test measures the speed at which your nerve impulses move through the nerve. This way, any nerve damage can be identified. The speed is calculated by measuring the distance and time it takes for the electrical impulses to travel from one electrode to another. We typically see these tests used in attempting to assess whether there is evidence of pressure on a nerve from a disc herniation, which may yield evidence of radiculopathy or sciatica.


Other diagnostic tests that may be helpful for workers who are injured on the job are who may have an occupational illness include:

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. This test helps examine your organs and tissue functionality. PET scans help determine the organ and tissue metabolic activities. They’re used to examine oxygen use, glucose metabolism, blood flow, and other issues. They can help examine brain tumors, cancer, memory disorders, heart problems, and seizures.


  • A complete blood count (CB). A CBC helps examine:
    • General health conditions such as the amount of you red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets – which, in turn, can help identify immunity, anemia, clotting, blood cancer, and other health problems.
    • Why a worker/ patient may be continuously tired, or have uncontrolled bleeding, bruises, or infections.
    • How your body is responding to certain treatments.


  • A hemoglobin test (HbA1c) examines your glucose level which may be necessary if you have an abnormal blood sugar level, heart-related issues, and other health problems.


  • C Reactive Protein (CRP) examines the amount of this chemical body. The test is used to detect arthritis, infection, pancreatic, and kidney problems. The test also helps examine if you have any artery problems High CRP levels may cause sudden (and fatal) heart attacks.


  • A thyroid function test. This test helps examine if you have hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and other disorders.


At Joe Miller Law Ltd., we work with your doctors and our network of doctors when necessary to fully understand what job-related injuries or occupational illnesses you have and the treatments you’ll need to return to the best health possible – and to work if possible. You’re generally entitled to compensation by your employer’s insurance company for all reasonable and necessary diagnostic tests. To discuss and assert your right to workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina or Virginia, call lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295 or fill out my online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Our law firm does have an easy way for you to provide your details of your accident and injuries if you simply want to do that electronically from the comfort and safety of your home at any time of day or night. To utilize this service, simply click here: New Electronic Case Review.

We’ll get back to you, typically within 24 hours to provide our response as to whether your situation is one where we can provide you with legal representation. If we require more information, we’ll contact you and ask for that information in order to make that determination as to whether we are the best folks to assist you. If we ultimately determine that we cannot represent or assist you, we will not leave you high and dry. We’ll do our best to provide you with other resources to assist you.

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If you are looking at this site, you or a loved one has probably been hurt. If that's true, you've come to the right place. Helping people who have been hurt is what we do. In fact, it is all we do. Joe Miller Law is a law firm concentrating exclusively on representing people who are injured by the carelessness of others or those hurt on the job. We provide the highest quality legal services to people who have been seriously injured. We practice Personal Injury law and Workmens' Compensation law in both Virginia and North Carolina.