Radiologic technology plays an important role in diagnosing medical conditions and diseases. The field originated when Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays in 1895. When you hear the word radiologic technology, you may also think of computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and ultrasound; but recent advancements in medical imaging also include a combination or new variations of these technologies, as well as completely new methods. In the past decade, three advancements in particular have transformed radiology.
1. Digital Medical Imaging
Digital radiology is not a new concept, but in the past decade, it has become cheaper, more common and more flexible. As computers and their networks have evolved, so has digital imaging. Several advancements in digital imaging have helped to reinvent traditional methods, such as the X-ray. For example, wireless and mobile X-ray systems allow health care practitioners to examine a patient at their bedside, when he or she can't be moved to the radiology room. Remote viewing systems enable practitioners to look at images outside of the imaging center's picture archive and communication system. It also gives patients access to their images through the Internet.
2. Combination Systems
Each imaging technology has its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the level of detail of the image, applications, price and safety for the patient. Systems that combine two different imaging modalities take advantage of each technology's characteristics. For example, PET-MRI hybrids, which first appeared in 2007 in a clinical setting, provide more detail than each of the systems does on its own. Although PET and MRI have been around for several decades, combining the two was difficult since PET machines contain metal, which can interfere with an MRI scan.
3. Magnetic Particle Imaging
MPI (not to be confused with myocardial perfusion imaging, a radiology method for the heart) is a new medical imaging technology that maps superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles that are injected into the blood stream. The first proof-of-principle study of this method was published in 2005. MPI's main advantages are that it's more detailed than traditional imaging techniques, and it does not use any radiation. It produces images quickly, in comparison to other radiation-free techniques such as MRI, which is also more expensive.
These advancements in medical technology are available in health care settings today. Researchers at universities and companies are investigating other emerging technologies that could make their way into the hospital setting in the next few years. The upcoming decade may bring even more interesting advancements. This makes it an exciting time to become a radiology technician and learn to apply some of these and other technologies.
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