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Stephen O'Connor

By: Stephen O'Connor on July 24th, 2019

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How Have Radiology and Radiology Systems Evolved?

Radiology Information System

Beginning with the x-ray, Radiology has become a vital part of diagnosis. Radiology is the science and technology of using forms of radiation or energy for which the body is partly transparent to image the organs inside. The contents of the body are shown by shadows on recording media. Although ultrasound is not a form of radiation, the category of radiology also includes the use of ultrasound or focused high-frequency sound which images internal organs using echoes that are traced precisely enough to form an interpretative image. Modern radiology also makes use of the magnetic properties of the body's own molecules to generate magnetic resonance images (MRIs), but this is a very recent development.

Electromagnetic Waves, Mechanical Waves, Shadows, and Echoes

The images generated though radiology have steadily improved since the first useful X-ray imaging device was invented. X-Rays are light energy with an extremely short wavelength, shorter than ultraviolet light.

  • Radio waves of the kind used in broadcasts are about 1 meter long.
  • Visible light waves are in the range .0000010 meters long.
  • X-rays have waves about .0000000010 meters long.
  • Gamma waves which are generated by radioactive materials are .000000000010 meters long.

The Longer Wavelengths of Radiation Are Not Useful for Imaging the Body

  • The body is completely transparent to radio waves (as are all but the very largest objects on the earth).
  • The body is almost completely opaque to visible light.
  • The wavelength of X-rays turns out to be just right because the body and many structures made of metals or earth elements are translucent to the passage of x-rays. Different parts of the body absorb different amounts of x-ray radiation, so they render useful shadows.
  • The very short gamma radiation can also be used to make images.
  • Radiology makes use of x-rays and gamma rays, as well as the mechanical vibrations of a very high frequency that make focused echoes of organs inside the body.

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The History of Seeing Into the Body

radiology systems examining x-ray

The first x-ray light was generated by physicist Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895. He discovered that his x-ray lamp was able to make the body somewhat transparent.

  • Roentgen was able to make the first x-ray images of his wife on photographic film and won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1901. Initially, x-rays were made on glass photographic plates, which were eventually replaced with photographic film.
  • Fluoroscopes, invented by Thomas Edison, chemically changed the x-ray shadows into visible light to produce the first fluoroscope, which allowed x-ray images to be used in situ
  • Eventually, x-ray sensitive digital plates were used to transfer the x-ray images to computers.
  • In the 1950s, the first ultrasound was used to make images on television monitors in real time. The images made from echoes of high-frequency sound waves passed through the skin allowed medical professionals to see organs as they operate and to see the development of the fetus.
  • In 1972, the Computed Tomography (CT scan) technique was developed. The mechanical devices were developed to take a series of many X-ray images in succession and then combine them into a three-dimensional view of the body as if it were sliced. These CT scan images allowed for insights that were not possible before.
  • The PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) was invented in the 1950s. A substance called a "tracer," made from a radioactive isotope (a substance that generates radiation) is injected into the body. Organs in the body absorb the tracer. The organs that absorb the tracer then generate radiation that is picked up by a detector. The PET scan image is a picture of where the tracer is absorbed. Cancerous tissues absorb the tracer faster than normal tissue. Seeing which organs absorb the tracer and the level of energy generated by the tracer indicates where cancerous tissue may be located.

The Bottom Line

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About Stephen O'Connor

Stephen O'Connor is the Director of Brand and Digital Marketing, responsible for many aspects of Advanced Data Systems Corporation’s (ADS) marketing, including product marketing, customer acquisition, demand generation, brand, brand design, and content marketing.

Stephen has more than 20 years of healthcare industry experience. Prior to ADS, Stephen spent 11 years at Medical Resources Inc. (MRI), most recently as the Manager of Marketing & Internet Services, where he and his teams were responsible for all marketing efforts and the market positioning of MRI’s services.

Stephen spends his day's planning, writing, & designing resources for the modern healthcare professional.