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A non-invasive procedure is a type of medical examination where the skin is not broken and body cavities are not probed beyond their normal means. Common non-invasive procedures fall into three categories: diagnostic imaging, tissue palpitation and visual examinations. A non-invasive procedure is often the first step in diagnosing and treating illnesses.
There are three types of medical procedures: non-invasive, minimally invasive and invasive (often just referred to as surgery). Minimally invasive procedures and open surgery typically require some sort of incision to allow access to the inside of the patient. At bare minimum, the surgeon needs access to areas of the body beyond the outer areas.
A non-invasive procedure has a few traits that separate it from the other procedures. The skin cannot be broken during the examination. If the skin is ruptured during an injury and the doctor examines the wound, it is still non-invasive. It would become minimally invasive if the doctor further opened the wound or placed an instrument inside the injury.
The second common trait for a non-invasive procedure is probe depth and location. Touching the outer part of the body is fine, but touching the inner areas of the body may not be. Using instruments to look inside open body areas, such as the pupil or ear, is fine. Deeper penetration, such as a rectal or sinus examination, moves the procedure to minimally-invasive.
There are three main varieties of non-invasive procedure. Diagnostic imaging uses various methods to look inside a body without breaking the skin. Electromagnetic radiation (X-rays), ultrasounds or computed tomography (CT) scans all fall into this category. The images gathered by these scans are vital to treating a large number of problems or determining if a more invasive form of surgery is required.
Tissue palpitation requires a doctor to touch affected areas to check for damage or injury. This form of non-invasive procedure is used to find damage below the skin or pinpoint a source of trouble or pain. While the information gathered during a tissue palpitation is often accurate, most doctors will follow up their findings with some form of diagnostic imaging.
Visual examinations are the last common non-invasive procedure. These procedures cover looking for scratches, bruises or other obvious forms of trauma. Using instruments to look inside a person’s ears, nose or mouth generally fall within this group, provided there is no penetration beyond what is commonly possible for those orifices. For instance, using a tongue depressor to look down a throat is non-invasive, but putting a scope down a person’s throat is not.