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Diagnostic tests

Related Terms

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Background

  • Diagnostic tests are used in healthcare settings to help determine the cause of a patient's symptoms and medical complaints. The cause of a patient's symptoms and medical complaints is known as a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is given, the doctor can decide which type of treatment will be most helpful. When a diagnostic test indicates that a medical condition is present in the patient, the diagnosis is called a positive diagnosis. When a diagnostic test indicates that a medical condition is not present, the diagnosis is called a negative diagnosis. Diagnostic tests are rarely completely accurate. However, they may help the doctor understand what is going on in the body. Sometimes tests return incorrect results. These incorrect results are classified as either a false positive or a false negative. A false negative is a diagnosis that incorrectly says a patient does not have a condition or disease when in fact the condition or disease is present in the patient's body. A false positive is a diagnosis that incorrectly says a patient does have a condition or disease when in fact the condition or disease is not present in the patient's body. If the doctor believes that the test results may be a false negative or false positive, then the test may be done again.
  • Most diagnostic tests involve a small amount of risk of causing problems in the patient's body. However, in most cases the chance of determining what is wrong with the patient is greater than the risk of injury. Before undergoing any diagnostic test, the patient and their loved ones should feel free to ask questions about the possible risks, benefits, and outcomes of the test before signing an informed consent form. The informed consent form is a paper in which the patient signs their name to show that they understand all of the risks and benefits of a diagnostic test. Patients should not sign this form until they feel that they completely understand what will happen in the test and what the risk of damage to the body may be.
  • The diagnostic tests used today rely heavily on specialized technology. Regardless, the patient may feel uncomfortable during the process of a diagnostic test. Knowing why the test is being performed and what to expect before the test begins may help to decrease feelings of anxiousness.
  • In addition to being used as a tool for making a diagnosis, diagnostic tests may also be used to measure how much a treatment is helping a patient recover from a disease or to confirm that the patient is still free of disease. Tests may also be done to estimate how likely a patient is to recover from a disease; the word for this concept is "prognosis."
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Hormonal

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Musculoskeletal

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Neurologic

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Ocular/Otic

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Men/Women

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Safety

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.