Technology has had a significant impact on medical practice across history, transforming the way doctors understand, diagnose, and address illnesses. Since the x-ray was invented in the late 19th century, we now have a variety of imaging methods available for doctors to use when curing diseases and injuries. This article will introduce how technology changed medical history and include some examples of the types of diagnostic scans available today.
Technology in Medical History
The advancement of technology has expanded the knowledge of medical science and transformed the way doctors diagnose and treat illnesses. For example, before the microscope was invented in the 17th century, medical professionals could not confirm the existence of bacteria and other microscopic organisms. This discovery led to the development of microbiology and enabled doctors to diagnose and treat infectious diseases more effectively.
In 1895, the invention of the X-ray (then called X-radiation) revolutionized medical diagnosis by allowing doctors to see inside the human body without surgery. Radiology technology enabled doctors to diagnose bone fractures, lung diseases, and other conditions. This technology has been refined since and remains one of the most used diagnostic scans today. Around the same time, the electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) was invented, allowing doctors to diagnose heart disease by measuring the electrical activity of the heart.
In the 1960s, the development of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) enabled doctors to create detailed images of the body’s internal organs and tissues. These technologies allowed doctors to diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases including cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. In recent years, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we diagnose diseases and injuries as well, helping doctors to identify and treat conditions more accurately by efficiently analyzing vast amounts of medical data.
Examples of Medical Imaging Technology
With the evolution of medical technology, there are now many types of scans available for diagnostic purposes. Each type of imaging technology was developed in response to specific medical problems and uses different approaches to produce a diagnosis. Doctors can now choose the type of scan based on the part of the body they want to examine or the nature of the condition that they want to treat. Below are some of the common types of scans that you may encounter at a hospital.
X-ray – An X-ray is the most common type of diagnostic scan available worldwide. The X-ray machine emits a small, regulated amount of radiation that passes through the body to a detector. The detector records body radiation and provides an image of internal structures like bones, organs, and tissues. X-ray images can be used to help diagnose lung disorders, bone fractures, and dental issues. However, these scans do involve exposure to a small amount of radiation, so doctors only use them when necessary to minimize radiation exposure.
Computed Tomography (CT) Scan – A CT scan uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of bones, organs, and tissues inside the body. During the scan, the patient lies on a table and passes through a donut-shaped machine that captures X-rays from numerous angles. Detailed photographs of the body’s internal structures are produced. CT scans can also be used to guide biopsies and operations. Although CT scans are safe and non-invasive, they still expose patients to small amounts of ionizing radiation.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – An MRI uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to create detailed images of soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons, and organs. During an MRI, the patient lies on a table in a tube that generates a powerful magnetic field. This magnetic field works with radio waves to create changes in the body’s atoms that are detected by sensors. This information is processed by a computer to create detailed photographs of the internal body. MRI scans can be extremely detailed, making them valuable for identifying numerous medical disorders.
Ultrasound – An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to detect and process echoes to form images of organs and tissues inside the body. It is commonly used during pregnancy to monitor the development of the fetus. It can also be used to diagnose other conditions such as cancer, cysts, infections, and kidney stones. Ultrasonic scans do not use ionizing radiation, making them safe and non-invasive. However, as ultrasound images may not be as detailed as CT or MRI scans, they cannot be used to diagnose certain medical issues.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan – A PET scan employs a tracer—a small amount of radioactive substance—to create images inside the body. The patient is injected with the tracer, which is absorbed by the investigated tissues or organs. Positrons from the tracer interact with electrons in the body to produce gamma rays which are detected by sensors and processed into images by a computer. PET scans can detect cancer, heart disease, and neurological diseases. They can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of certain medical treatments.
In conclusion, technology has greatly improved diagnostic ability in healthcare facilities in various ways. With the development of medical imaging technologies, doctors can now obtain detailed images of the internal structures of the body and diagnose a myriad of conditions accurately. These technologies have also reduced the need for invasive procedures and surgeries. As technology continues to advance, patients can look forward to better, safer, and more efficient healthcare.
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