Friday, December 30, 2011

Guide To Diagnostic Medical Imaging by Kathryn Dawson

What is diagnostic medical imaging? This is actually quite a broad term used to describe a number of different processes that result in scanned images used by doctors and surgeons to make accurate diagnoses of their patients. Medical imaging involves taking pictures of the inside of the body and looking out for abnormalities or in the case of x-rays for broken bones, amongst other problems. It is a very important aspect of making good diagnoses and more and more doctors rely upon scans to provide them with the data and information they need to help make an accurate diagnosis. If medical imaging didn't exist a host of illnesses could be left untreated such as cancer as they often don't display outward signs for a number of years. Internal bleeding after a trauma is another condition that makes medical imaging so important and life-saving.

There are several different types of diagnostic medical imaging. X-rays are one of the most common and well known, also known as radiologic technology. During an x-ray, the body is exposed to a small amount of radiation that passes through it. Some of the rays are absorbed as they travel, and they all travel at different speeds. Because of this they are able to be projected onto a special film which provides a picture of the inside of the body. If anyone has seen an x-ray, you will see that the picture is not very detailed or clear which is why it is best for detecting fractures and breaks in the bones. These show up well in x-rays. Sometimes another shadow may be spotted. In this instance another scan may be required for the patient if the doctor thinks there may be something further to investigate other than a fractured bone. An x-ray is a completely painless experience and takes just a few minutes to obtain the pictures.

An ultrasound is another technology used for creating scans. These are most commonly used to show a baby in the womb. It provides a more in depth picture than an x-ray does, when looking at a baby it is possible to see the different parts of the body well. Although primarily used for this purpose it is also suitable for examining muscles, joints, tendons and all the internal organs in the body. Ultrasound is the safest imaging modality available today.

Yet clearer still, a CT scan or CAT scan as it is sometimes called provides an even greater insight into the body's interior. This is more advanced than either an x-ray or an ultrasound as is often used when a patient has been involved in a serious injury. It is often used to explore the brain - looking for signs of abnormality or swelling but it can be used to see the whole body. It works a little like an x-ray but a large number of images are taken at the same time. Software is used to interpret this multitude of images into one 3D image of the body. It is capable of assisting detection in all sorts of problems such as cancerous growths, tumors and blocked arteries and for that reason a scan is often the first port of call for a doctor wanting to make a diagnosis.

Last but not least, an MRI scan is a very accurate way of looking at the inside of the body. By sending radio waves through a magnetic field and interpreting the way energy is released from the atoms in the area being targeted, radiologists can determine a number of illnesses and diseases. Broken bones to tumors and internal bleeding can all be detected easily with an MRI scan.

Diagnostic medical imaging is an effective way of scanning the body to look for health problems. Medical computer software such as that used for PACS imaging is crucial to its success and allows multiple physicians on a tumor board for example to examine the images produced. All of the scans are useful, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.