Wait times for diagnostic imaging
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Differences between CT and MRI scans
To help diagnose possible conditions, your doctor may send you for a Computerized Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan.
While both types of scans take pictures of the inside of your body, they use different technology. Your doctor will choose what scan is right for you based on your symptoms and medical history.
|Description||CT scan||MRI scan|
|What it does|
Imaging wait times we track
You can see wait times for:
Understanding your journey
This is how you get a CT or MRI scan in Ontario and when you can expect to wait.
Seeing your family doctor
At the hospital/centre
Getting your scan
What the numbers mean
When you check wait times for diagnostic imaging, you can access a lot of data. Here’s a preview of what the measurements mean and an example of how someone can use them to estimate their own wait time and inform discussions with their doctor.
To help ensure patients most in need are seen first, a radiologist at the hospital/imaging centre assigns you a priority level of 1 to 4. For non-emergencies, priority 2 is the most urgent. (Priority 1 means emergency, so those patients get their scans immediately and are not included in wait times data.)
Your priority level will be based on:
- your particular symptoms and medical history
- the radiologist’s experience
- medical research and best practices
Because priority levels are assigned based on specific criteria, you can be sure your wait time is appropriate for your condition.
Maya hasn’t been feeling well for the last two weeks and she’s concerned that there might be something wrong.
After an exam, Maya’s doctor suspects Maya may have small bowel disease (Crohn’s disease) and decides to send her for a CT scan of her small intestine to get more information. The doctor writes a referral that includes relevant medical information about Maya and what he found during his exam and sends it to the local hospital.
The radiologist at the hospital reviews the doctor’s referral and assigns her as Priority 4 for this CT scan.
A target time is the maximum wait time that patients should expect to wait to receive their diagnostic imaging (MRI or CT) scan. We established wait-time targets based on recommendations from clinical experts.
Maya can see that, at the hospital where her CT scan is scheduled:
Average wait by hospital
This is the average number of days patients waited for a CT or MRI scan at particular hospitals or imaging centres. You can also see an average for the province.
Why some numbers are not available
If you see sections that say “no data,” there could be a few reasons why, such as:
- the number of patients treated is too low to report
- the service isn’t available at the hospital you’ve selected
- there were no scans during the reporting period
- the facility is new to reporting and has just started collecting data
Options for reducing your wait time
Talk to your family doctor about how you may be able to reduce your wait time. You can:
- tell your doctor you’re willing to go for an appointment in the evening, night or weekend – those appointments may be available sooner
- tell your doctor you’re willing to travel to a hospital or imaging centre with a shorter wait time
- see if there is a cancellation list you could be added to, if you can be available on short notice when last-minute openings become available
- make sure you follow any instructions about what to do before your appointment ( e.g. limiting what you eat or drink for a period of time) so you don’t risk having to reschedule