7 Major Advancements in Radiology

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A list of the radiology industry’s most recent achievements

Since its discovery in the 19th century, the field of radiology has rapidly grown to enhance treatment for millions of people. New technologies and better practices have made the field safer, less expensive, and more efficient. To celebrate the industry’s innovation, a list of the field’s most recent achievements has been compiled.

Imaging Tests Instead of Exploratory Surgery

Although some imaging procedures may have their risks, they are often preferable to the risks of going under the knife. Doctors are now performing invasive surgeries at a decreasing rate. In the last 15 years, it has declined by 95% thanks to advances in imaging technology. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that CT scans reduced both the negative appendectomy rate and the number of unnecessary admissions for observation, saving patients thousands, and eliminating the trauma of surgery. CT scans, MRI scans and ultrasound have become clear enough for diagnostics in a much safer and less invasive way. Imaging is even being used to treat cancer through PET scans.

Radiation Dose Reduction

The dangers of excessive radiation exposure are well documented. In fact, CT, Flouroscopy, and PET scans, which amount to only 25% of annual imaging procedures, make up 90% of medically-related radiation exposure. But the medical community has been working hard to reduce radiation dosage through the use of medical equipment and better practices. Practicing the use of lead aprons, certain drugs, improved patient positioning, and stillness can limit the amount of exposure during scanning and reduce the need for repeat scans. In some cases, radiation scanning can be eliminated altogether and substituted for ultrasound or MR scans.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound technology was discovered in 1877. Since then, radiologic technology has evolved dramatically – from the first ultrasonic scanner invented in 1949, to 3D ultrasounds in the 80s, real-time 4D images in the 90s, and the remote viewing systems of today. Ultrasound has been used not only to monitor pregnancy, but also for echocardiograms, guided needle placement, bone sonometry, and abdominal imaging. It’s one of the safest and most affordable imaging procedures and the mobile machines are easily accessible throughout the hospital and from remote locations through the use of telesonography. This new technology has substantially decreased wait times and lowered medical costs for patients in the rural third world. The latest systems can also detect breast cancer and even treat certain types of cancer such as prostate, liver, kidney, pancreatic, and bladder.

Remote Viewing Systems

Since the discovery of x-rays in 1895, the field of radiology has advanced immensely. The sad truth, however,  is that two-thirds of the world does not have access to basic radiologic procedures. Kenya, with a population of 43 million, only has 200 radiologists, while Massachusetts General in Boston has 126. In rural Nepal, when an x-ray is needed, people spend a month’s income and roughly two days traveling to find a facility that can do it, with no promise of a clear image. Machines in these parts of the world are often outdated models that have been donated, rendering them in most cases, virtually useless. Despite all of this, telemedicine is taking the third world a step forward in that regard, reducing expenses and wait times and increasing accuracy.

Web-based systems allow physicians to send and access images and reports from all over the world. This technology has proven to be exponentially helpful in places like rural Morocco, where 800 women die daily from complications their doctors were unable to identify – many of which are easily treatable when caught in time with the proper equipment.

CT Angiography

Advances in angiography have made the process much faster, safer, and less expensive. The traditional angiogram takes several hours, requires sedatives, and can even cause damage to the arteries. But a new CT angiogram can do the same job in just 10-25 minutes, without all the risks. Instead of using a catheter, the contrast material is injected into the arm and a CT scan is taken. It can be used for the arteries in the lungs, kidneys, arms, and legs. However, the traditional process must still be used when it comes to the heart arteries.

Digital Mammography

Digital mammography has proven to be as effective, if not more, as traditional film mammography. Digital mammograms can be uploaded and shared immediately for speedier diagnostic results; and are more accurate in some cases. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 49,000 women with no known signs of breast cancer were screened using both types of tests. Breast cancer was found in 335 of the women. The study determined that digital mammograms were more accurate in detecting breast cancer in women under 50, women with dense breast tissue, premenopausal women, and women who are around the age of menopause.

PET Scans

PET scans have combined with CT to detect cancer much earlier with a clearer image that provides more information than the traditional scan. By discovering the metabolic changes occurring in the body, rather than just a physical change, physicians get a better idea of what’s going on and how to properly treat it. The scan can identify the spread of cancer in the body and also monitor chemotherapy. Radiation is still used in these scans, but the dose injected for the scan is about the same amount as a basic x-ray.]

About the Author

Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.

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