There are many technologies that effect our everyday life, some we barely notice until it becomes relevant to our situation. One such technology is diagnostic radiology, most commonly known as x-rays.
Most people have had an x-ray at some point in their life, the most common experience would be getting your teeth x-rayed at the dentist. Some who have had the unfortunate experience of breaking a bone may also have had one. X-rays are used to diagnose many different conditions, an x-ray of the lung can be used to spot lesions.
History of Radiology
The German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen, is most commonly given credit for discovering the x-ray on November 8, 1895. He was the man that actually coined the term “x-ray”, the “x” referring to the fact that these newly discovered rays were unknown.
The man who is actually given credit for inventing what we now know as the diagnostic x-ray, is Thomas Edison. In 1896 he invented the fluoroscope, which became the standard equipment used to take medical x-rays.
Diagnostic Radiology – How is it Used
There are several different types of diagnostic radiology, radiography, CT scanning, sonography, MRI imaging, and nuclear medicine. These procedures are commonly performed by a certified radiology technician.
Radiography is what we typically know as an x-ray. The images are known as radiographs and are usually used for diagnosing problems within the skeletal structure or soft tissues.
A CT scan is used for analysis and diagnosis of problems within soft tissues. Utilizing a radioactive contrast that is usually introduced intravenously into the patient, the CT scan is able to render 3-D images of the body with the aid of x-rays and computer technology.
Diagnostic sonography more commonly known as ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of soft tissue within the body. The concept is very much the same as how dolphins use sonar to create images of what’s around them. Ultrasounds are, we used in prenatal checkups and examining the abdominal organs.
An MRI ( Magnetic Resonance Imaging) uses magnetic fields to create very detailed 3-D images of internal tissues. An MRI is one of the most advanced diagnostic tools available for body imaging, though the process involves the patient remain completely still for a long period of time, within a very confined area. This could be very income kibbles for someone who’s claustrophobic.
Nuclear medicine uses radioactive isotopes to create images where other diagnostic technologies are unable to. most commonly this type of procedures used to monitor the physiological function of in organ or the growth of the tumor.
When x-rays were first discovered it was common practice to give demonstrations on other scientists are animals. Many who are exposed to high doses of these x-rays suffered severe burns as well as cancers that developed as a result of exposure.
These risks were not fully understood during the early stages of research, in fact there were many scientists who actually said the x-rays were completely safe despite the overwhelming evidence of the contrary. Eventually safe levels were established for x-rays and other diagnostic procedures that were considered safe for the patient.
The problem is there’s no way to really know the long-term effects from the cumulative exposure to x-rays throughout a life time. Some studies say that as much as 2% of all new cancer cases in this country are a result of radioactive exposure during CT scans. This is a serious issue that should be looked at more closely to weigh the risks versus rewards of such procedures.
Just like any other technology, there are good points and bad points that come along with such innovations. The discovery of x-rays and the development of diagnostic radiology was one of the most important breakthroughs in modern medicine, greatly improving the physician’s ability to diagnose and treat the great variety of medical conditions.
However exposure to x-rays can be very damaging to living tissue and could result in anything from a burn to cancer. no one can count the millions of people who have been effectively treated and how many lives saved as a result of these technologies. At the same time we must ask the question, how many people have been needlessly exposed to harmful radiation and developed cancer as a result.
The point is not to demonize such technologies but merely bring to light the positives along with the negatives, in hopes of sparking a larger debate.