Medical images are a crucial component of the diagnosis process. Without these medical images, radiologists are not able to properly diagnosis and treat diseases. To generate quality medical images, radiologic technologists must know which technology will work for each individual procedure. Below, we will highlight some of the technologies used to create medical images, as well as highlight the future of medical imaging.
Ultrasound imaging – known within the radiologic community as sonography – capture real time data/images inside the human body through use of high-frequency sound waves. Due to the data occurring in real time, ultrasounds provide imaging professionals with direct insight on the movement of particular internal organs, as well blood vessels and blood flow.
o Bone sonometry – which assess the strength of bones
o Breast ultrasound – produces visuals of breast tissue and is thus used to diagnose various breast issues, such as breast cancer
o Doppler ultrasound – provides doctors with visuals on how blood is flowing through vessels or organs
o Fetal ultrasound – helps doctors see and document fetal development during pregnancy
o Having been around for over 40 years, ultrasounds are considered tremendously safe when properly used by certified medical professionals. One of its major benefits is that it is based on non-ionizing radiation, and thus does not carry the same radiation risks as other radiation technologies, such as radiography.
o Although ultrasound has a superb record of safety, like most things, it does carry with it potential risks. One of the major risks is ultrasound’s potential to impact the body via biological strains. For example, on some occasions, ultrasound waves have been noted to slightly heat body tissue and produce pockets of gas or fluids.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging – commonly known as MRI – is the process of developing medical images of the body’s internal structures. To do so, radiologic technologists use MRI scanners that leverage high-powered radiofrequency energy (radio waves) which are received by a transmitter within the MRI machine. Of all the technologies leveraged to create medical images, MRIs tend to be on the longer end, with the average scan lasting between 20 – 90 minutes.
o Examining the brain or spinal cord
o Identifying tumors, nodes or cysts
o Assessing pelvic pain
o Examining joint or back issues
o Similar to Ultrasound, MRI is noninvasive and do not expose the patient to ionizing radiation
o MRIs have been noted to accurately identify and depict soft tissue diseases better than other imaging technologies
o The use and value of MRI is quite broad in that they can be utilized for issues involving anything from the brain to the heart to even bone issues
o If used by a certified medical professional, MRIs offer little to no risk for typical patients
o That said, due to the issue of strong magnetic forces, patients with metal medical devices should be cautious as these may cause issues during an exam
Technologies Impacting the Future of Medical Imaging
While the current methods of medical imaging are extremely effective, doctors and health professionals are always looking to improve these technologies by making them safer, faster and more efficient
- Molecular Medicine and Genomics
o The development of new energy sources – such as magnetic, optical or nuclear – and digital recording techniques has provided the radiology community with more extensive and effective options in identifying disease. In fact, due to the extending scale of measurement, medical imaging is currently in the process of transcending anatomy and entering into the fields of molecular medicine and genomics, which will provide patients with more effective, personalized treatment options.
- Reduction in Radiation
o Due to the continuous improvements in the field of medical imaging, experts project that the next decade of radiologic technologies will see such extensive reduction in radiation doses that the concern over radiation-related health issues will be of little concern.
o To do so, professionals will use phase contrast x-ray imaging, which has the potential to vastly reduce radiation doses.
- Big Data & Data Mining
o Experts in health care have long known that the field of radiology often leads the health community towards technological advances. This proved true with digital medicine and will likely prove true with big data as well. The continuous development of big data and data mining will provide radiologic professionals with real-time data during the imaging process, which thus translates to less errors and more personalized procedures.
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