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How has Radiology and Medical Imaging evolved over time?

The past few years have seen an immense expansion and upsurge in the overall research and development of technological advances in Radiology and Imaging. Due to a number of factors affecting the field of study, such as the excessive use of Helium (a non-renewable resource) becoming an increasing concern, substantial effort has been invested into improving different areas of Radiology to become more sophisticated and efficient. Here’s a look into a few of the key areas.

 

Ultrasound

The use and official discovery of Ultrasound technology was in 1877, acting as both the precursor and foundation of radiology today, while simultaneously retaining its relevancy and usefulness in the present day. Having been theorised back in 1974, by physicist Lazaro Spallanzani, who evaluated the method in which bats would manoeuvre in pitch black conditions and deducing it was via sensing the interaction of sound waves within its environment. During the period between 1877-1880, the first apparatus capable of emitting 40 hertz sound waves was invented, this was seen as the first instalment of what we now know as Ultrasound. However, that does not mean that Ultrasound has not evolved and advanced over the years. With the first ever actual ultrasonic scanner being produced in 1949, followed by the ultrasounds utilising 3 dimensions following the 1980’s and the impressive 4-dimensional imaging techniques in the 1990’s, all leading up to the incredibly sophisticated remote viewing systems employed presently in most hospitals.

 

Most of the general public are familiar with ultrasound technology due to its usage and application in monitoring pregnancies, as well as the construction of detailed echocardiograms, effectively analysing a bone sonometric, assisting in the placement of needles, and compiling more detailed imaging. Due to it’s a relatively cheap cost, safe use (no electromagnetic radiation) and widespread availability, ultrasound has drastically reduced medical costs and waiting times for patients across the globe.

 

Radiation Dose Reduction

Studies performed on different radiation types and their effects on the human body have been researched for a long time, the methods of research have become more refined and improved, so has the insight of leading scientific minds.

 

It is important to bear in mind that different forms of radiation have different effects on the human body. In regard to radiology, electromagnetic radiation is the only form to be concerned about. Medical radiation exposures are for the most part (90% in fact), caused by PET scans, CT scans and Fluoroscopy (which uses X-rays), however these methods only make up for a quarter of the available imaging procedures. Therefore, as the short and long term effects of excessive electromagnetic radiation exposure has been analysed over time, reducing the dosage of radiation patients receive has become more important. This has often been achieved with more efficient and less invasive equipment, alongside improved protection and safety practices (e.g. wearing lead aprons, drinking barium milkshakes and better positions for the patients)

 

CT Angiography

In the past, Angiogram’s used to take a long time to perform, involving sedatives, with a sub-optimal outcome of results (often not detailed enough, or with a number of discrepancies) and could potentially damage the arteries being analysed. Nowadays though, the same procedure could be carried out in under 30 minutes, minus all the hazards and potential risks. Excluding the main arteries of the heart, a catheter does not need to be used, alternatively a type of contrast material (usually Gadolinium- or Iodine-based) can be injected into the necessary body part, to help produce a better image.

 

PET Scans

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) somewhat stand out in comparison to other forms of imaging, as they are a nuclear-based form of medical imaging. This means that a minuscule amount of nuclear material is used to map out, diagnose and possibly even treat some diseases. This is necessary for certain cases of cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart diseases etc. Furthermore, not only the physical changes, but also the chemical changes in the body can be monitored, like metabolic rates and blood flow.

 

Over the years, safer materials have been discovered and applied in medical procedures, plus radiotracer agents that yield a higher standard of results. Paired with the understanding that PET scans could have more applications than previously thought, time and investments into this field could prove fruitful within the industry.

 

What with radiology being such a highly specialised discipline, there is always a need for individuals with a particular tier of knowledge and skill set to meet the needs of our clients. Many of the London hospitals work with Cavendish to source Radiology/Imaging professionals, so to know how you could become better involved in the world of Radiology and Medical Imaging, have a look at some of the healthcare roles that we provide here