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The Technology of Radiology Saving Our Lives

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Introduction

Technology has evolved since the Stone Age when tools were made out of stone, to the modern era that we are all living in now with tools like fluoroscopy, MRI, and CT scanners. We have come a long way and he use of technology still continues to grow exponentially because of the unlimited access to information. These technologies have been helpful when it comes to socializing, academics, and most importantly, saving lives. Radiology is extremely underrated considering it is an integral part of healthcare. Without radiology, doctors such as neurologists, orthopedists, and obstetricians would not be able to detect certain diseases. Seeing your baby in the womb for the first time is a life-changing experience that would not happen without the use of a medical ultrasound. A growing brain tumor would not be detected without the use of MRI and CT scans. A bone fracture cannot be operated on until an X-ray of the bone is performed. Not only does radiology help us see what is inside the body, it also saves lives.

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The Discovery of X-Rays

The field of radiology began with the German mechanical engineer and physicist, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who made an extraordinary discovery in 1895, he named X-rays. His work on cathode rays led him to the discovery. The first ‘röntgenogram’ ever taken was on his wife’s hand. The rays showed the visible transparency of his wife’s hand which produced an image of her bones and her ring. This discovery significantly changed the medical field for the better. (Nobel Media AB, 2018)

New Discoveries

The discovery of X-rays led to new discoveries that are used nonstop in hospitals today. Between 1906 and 1912, contrast agents (substance used to improve the visibility of structures inside the body in medical imaging) were applied to help doctors visualize human organs and blood vessels for the first time. A new radiological application was made in the 1960s called the angiography in which a special dye is used to get images of the blood flow in an artery or vein. In the 1970s, G.N. Hounsfield and A.M. Cormack used computer-processed X-rays to produce images of cross-sectional images of the brain, bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues which increased patient’s chances of recovery because the CT scan showed the development of a certain disease of the body. (Infinity, 2018)

Radiology has evolved tremendously since the discovery of the X-rays and now imaging technologies are used in healthcare to diagnose and treat diseases. We have MRI scans, or magnetic resonance imaging, CT scans, or computed tomography, and PET scans, or positron emission tomography. It does not stop there; there are many more imaging technologies that are used to develop images of the heart and brain with the use of high-frequency sound waves. Imaging techniques improved diagnosis, as well as improving the effective care for patients by discovering diseases such as cancer at earlier stages. Because of imaging techniques, we can distinguish the appearances of normal and abnormal structures of organs. (Radiological Society of North America, 2017)

The Importance of Radiology

One interesting diagnostic imaging technique is the ultrasonography because there are seven different types of ultrasound exams: Transvaginal Scans, Standard Ultrasound, Advanced Ultrasound, Doppler Ultrasound, 3D Ultrasound, 4D or Dynamic 3D Ultrasound, and Fetal Echocardiography. (American Pregnancy Association, 2017) A mother would know that their baby has a birth defect while it is still in the womb with the help of these seven ultrasound exams. My career goal is to become a cardiothoracic surgeon and I have realized that radiology will play an important role in surgery. Radiology is the reason why cardiothoracic surgeons are good at what they do because radiologists provide surgeons with scans that have the answer to what is wrong with a patient’s organ. Radiologists provide images of the heart by using imaging techniques such as coronary catheterization, echocardiogram, intravascular ultrasound, cardiac PET scan, cardiac CT scan and cardiac MRI. I would not be able to know what is wrong with a patient’s heart without the help of radiologists. Many people think nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, but I believe radiologists are the backbone because they are the ones that provide images that contain detailed information of the structure and diseases of organs such as how well an organ can function.

There are many cases in which imaging techniques are immensely needed for surgeons to figure out the patient’s diagnosis. For instance, one case would be that a 65-year-old woman is in the Emergency Room with lower central chest pain that is radiating to her back and an epigastric mass is found during the examination. A CT scan would show an aneurysmal dilatation of the thoracic aorta which can lead to the diagnosis of a rupture of the thoracic aortic aneurysm and a surgical repair would be required as the treatment. (Misra, 2002) Without the help of the CT scan, the patient would have ruptured the aortic aneurysm which will put her in a great deal of severe pain, a huge drop in blood pressure, and the risk of death. A world without radiology is a world with human suffering from diseases. We would have difficulty knowing what is wrong with our body with limited external exams of our heart, brain, and all our other organs. Before the X-ray was discovered, we knew so little about the human body and why organs failed. Without radiology, doctors would be guessing what is wrong with a patient and making the wrong diagnoses. Now we can provide the patient with his or her clinical or differential diagnosis. People might take radiology for granted now because we are born in the era where technology is a huge part of our life, but that is not an excuse because we are alive now because of radiology.

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