Medical imaging consists of traditional X-rays, CAT (CT) scans, MRIs, bone density scans, and ultrasound, or sonograms. Medical imaging is a noninvasive procedure that provides doctors and other medical professionals with valuable information about organs and body tissues, evaluating the extent or degree of a disease and the effectiveness of current treatments. The use of imaging has increased from 24% of diagnoses in 1997 to 35% in 2006, and it continues to grow, making it highly likely that you will need medical imaging at some point in your future.
X-rays have been used since the late 1800s. This type of medical imaging uses high frequency beams of light to create images of bone and some high density soft tissues, much like the tradition of holding a candle or other bright light to see through an egg. The use of contrast agents such as barium have improved the usefulness of images acquired from X-rays by providing better visibility into soft tissues.
Common uses for X-rays include:
a) Broken bones
b) Dental analysis
d) Radiation treatment for cancer
e) Identification and treatment of narrowing of arteries and other major blood vessels (angioplasty)
Unfortunately, the use of X-rays poses a very real threat of radiation damage and its use has been reduced significantly with the improvement of less risky forms of imaging.
CAT (CT) Scans
CAT or CT scans, known as computed axial tomography and computed tomographies, respectively, are a form of medical imaging that combines traditional X-rays with computer technology to create images of vertical and horizontal slices of the body that provide more detailed analysis of bones, organs, muscles, and fat. CT scans are especially well suited to emergency situations, such as car accidents, when it is imperative that a diagnosis of internal injuries is completed quickly and accurately.
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses a powerful magnet, radio frequencies, and computer technology to create highly detailed images of organs and other structures within the body. This type of imaging can go so far as to identify infections, joint damage, and diseases of the liver. Other conditions for which you may need an MRI include:
a) Heart problems
b) Brain damage
c) Tumors and cysts
d) Blood flow analysis
e) Diseases of the pancreas
f) Bone & joint pain
g) Liver disease
h) Reproductive disorders
There are no serious side effects associated with an MRI, but it is important to notify your medical imaging professional about any metal implants, pacemaker, artificial limbs, medical patches, or recently acquired tattoos or other permanent makeup.
Bone Density Scans
Traditionally, it was thought that elderly patients fell and then broke a hip. New research has shown that poor bone density leads pelvic bones to break, causing the patient to fall. Bone scans can help prevent breakage and trauma by using medical imaging to diagnose poor bone density and allowing doctors to prescribe effective treatments before a break occurs. Bone density medical imaging is also used to identify other bone abnormalities and the growth of tumors.
Commonly associated with pregnancy, ultrasound, also known as a sonogram, uses sound waves to create a reflection image, based on the different densities of various soft tissues, which is then analyzed by a computer that creates an image doctors can use to diagnosis medical problems and parents-to-be can add to baby books. Ultrasound is also used in the diagnosis and/or treatment of these conditions by watching them as they function:
a) Blood flow problems
b) Liver function
c) Kidney function
d) Abdominal tumors
Ultrasound is also used to break up scar tissue, reduce inflammation, improve bone healing, and to ease muscle spasms. This noninvasive form of medical imaging has provided relief to countless athletes, daredevils, and arthritis sufferers.
The usefulness of medical imaging makes it an excellent diagnostic and curative tool for conditions faced by millions of patients each year.