The past century has been nothing short of revolutionary for the field of radiology.
The invention of the X-ray jumpstarted medical imaging in the 1800s. Since then, radiologists have mastered new and innovative ways of viewing the human body in true form.
Radiology advancements have completely transformed the way doctors practice medicine today.
Seeing into body tissue with imaging procedures is now an essential complement to medical consultants.
We have gathered the 8 most essential advancements in medical imaging that have changed the face of medicine. Read on to learn more about this specialty’s fascinating history.
Eight Essential Radiology Advancements
The field of radiology has accomplished so much in the twentieth century. Radiologic imaging provides diagnostic information that is useful to almost any doctor. Dozens of common procedures are available to assist in diagnosis and treatment.
It is hard to say which discoveries in radiology have been most influential. But in no particular order, here are some of the most important contributions of the field.
1. Replacing Surgery with Imaging
Before basic radiology, surgeons would perform many more open procedures on patients. These procedures were necessary to check for any pathologic processes within the body.
Imaging has completely changed this practice. In the last 15 years, invasive surgeries have decreased nearly 95% due to major advances in imaging technology.
One study concluded that CT scans reduced the rate of negative appendectomies. This advancement not only saved patients the need for going under the knife, but also thousands of dollars in hospital costs.
The fidelity of modern CT and MRI has become so great that non-invasive diagnostics are now standard of care.
2. Reducing Radiation
There’s no ignoring the fact that too much radiation is harmful to health. CT scans, fluoroscopy, and PET scans make up a quarter of all imaging procedures. But they account for 90% of all radiation exposure in medical environments.
Radiologists have now introduced safety measures that reduce total radiation dose. These include lead aprons, medications, and safety practices including proper positioning. Often times radiation can be avoided entirely through the use of MRI or ultrasound.
Ultrasound is an amazing technology that continues grow in use in new areas of the hospital. The technology has been in use since its discovery in 1877.
Most people associate ultrasound with pregnancy monitoring. But now modern ultrasounds are capable of 3D and even 4D ultrasounds. These devices are able to highlight every detail of fetal anatomy and behavior.
Ultrasounds are now widely used in emergency radiology settings too. Doctors can use ultrasound to guide needles and image the abdomen during traumas in seconds.
It is one of the safest and most affordable medical procedures available. Ultrasound has also created new efficiencies in care delivery. In developing nations, it has helped reduce wait times and lower overall medical cost for patients.
4. Remote Scan Reviews
What is teleradiology?
The majority of the world does not have access to basic radiology scans and medical imaging. For example, Kenya has a population of 43 million, but only 200 total radiologists. Some hospitals in the United States have almost this many radiologists alone. The disparity of availability of care is striking.
In remote regions, obtaining medical imaging can mean traveling for days to receive necessary care. Often the imaging performed uses outdated models with suboptimal fidelity and diagnostic value.
But web-based teleradiology systems have changed the access to care immensely. Trained radiologists from all over the world can view and read scans in real time. This can be life saving for patients who need an urgent diagnosis to guide their care.
5. CT Angiograms
Modern angiography offers a way to view the heart’s function using CT scanning. New advances have streamlined the process for angiograms, making care safer.
Previously, angiography required several hours of anesthesia and could damage heart vessels. New CT angiograms can finish in under 30 minutes without many of the risks and complications. Contrast material enters the body via the arm, avoiding the need for a catheter.
New digital mammography has started to replace older film mammograms. The new imaging techniques can be more sensitive and offer faster diagnostic results.
One study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at nearly fifty thousand women with no signs of breast cancer. They used both digital and film mammograms and found similar detection rates.
This provides an immense step forward for women due to the cost and time advantages of digital procedures.
7. PET Scanning
Radiologists have started to combine CT scanning with PET scans. They hope they will be able to pick up on cancerous tissue early on.
Physicians can begin to see metabolic changes in certain body areas that suggest a malignancy may occur. This is essential knowledge that may improve outcomes for cancer patients.
8. DEXA Scanning
DEXA scans provide information about the health of a patient’s bone density. This ability has changed the treatment of common disorders such as osteoporosis. Determining density at a younger age can help reduce injury risk and prevent fragility fractures.
Radiologists Leading the Way
It’s clear that modern radiology advancements have revolutionized the practice of medicine. There are few areas of medicine that radiology has left untouched.
From PET scans to digital mammography to remote reads for developing nations, new advances occur every year. Modern ultrasound will continue to improve outcomes for emergency patients.
These innovations have changed day-to-day medical practice. Both doctors and patients look ahead to what the field will continue to offer going forward.
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