Advances in Medical Imagery
The Magic School Bus is great in theory. But climbing aboard a big yellow school bus, shrinking down the cellular scale and invading the body and its systems has yet to be accomplished by science. Some of you might feel disappointment when it comes to the lack of the minuscule vehicle, but the goal of exploring the human body may still be possible. X-rays and scans have been used to gauge extent of trauma, locate malfunctioning organs and diseased tissue. But recent developments and creative techniques have been recently introduced into the medical world. Medical technology is now able to give a clearer and more valuable picture of tissue, blood and bone than ever before.
For years, X-rays have been given scientists black and white photos of fractures and other bone abnormalities. Recently, improvements in the images produced by x-rays have made it possible for physicians to interpret more and more information. Digital detectors can provide a picture of soft tissue as well as the bone matter it surrounds. Neck trauma, for example, often involves soft tissue damage as well. The new technology can locate anything that may be obstructing the patient’s airway as well as any bone damage.
Computed Tomography, or CT-Scans, is helpful because they produced and accurate picture quickly and effectively. When paired with another form of medical imaging equipment, CT-scans take diagnostics to the next level. When CT-Scans are pair with volume-rendering programs, a picture of the heart and its blood vessels can show any abnormalities before any incision is made. Surgeons can determine possible complications if an artery or valve appear to be abnormal.
Advances have been seen even on the cellular level. Most imagery equipment gives information and pictures regarding anatomical structure. Positron Emission Tomography takes this a step further by showing us the activity of the cells of this organs and tissue. If there is no apparent damage or structural problem, using PET allows us to see what may be going wrong inside the body. What’s more, this can be accomplished without surgery or before symptoms worsen.
PET scans involve injections of radioactive inks called tracers. Depending upon which type of cell a physician in interested in, different tracers can be used accordingly. If cancer is suspected, an oncologist would use a radioactive glucose tracer. Cancer cells rapidly divide and multiply, thereby needing and using a lot more energy. Cancerous cells would use the tracer more than the healthy cells.
Once the tracer is injected, any diseased cells would appear to glow on screen. Single PET scans will create a two-dimensional image. However, combining multiple shots of the same person allows scientists to create a 3-D model of their patient. This new program will help with cancer treatment and research as well as cardiology and neurology.
Advances in medical equipment and software continue to prove invaluable. Doctors and researchers are able to literally paint pictures of their patients and subjects body and health. It might not be fun as following the journey of a white blood cell in the Magic School Bus, but one can still dream.
Brent McNutt enjoys talking about cheap scrubs and landau pants and networking with healthcare professionals online.
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