Radiology is a specific field of medical work that encompasses many different types of techniques and machinery. Utilizing X-rays, Radiologists conduct a variety of different tests of patients, including ultrasounds, computed tomography (CT), nuclear medicine, position tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). There is also Interventional Radiology, which is the performance of medical procedures with the guidance of imaging technology. But what are the differences in these highly technical and precise medical procedures? The answers may surprise you.
Radiographs are produced by transmitting X-rays through a patient’s body. The X-rays penetrate a portion of the body by controlling the energy and length of exposure, which produces a high contrast image formed on silver-impregnated paper. New advances in in Digital Radiology are creating innovations in how doctors perform Plain Radiology exams.
Fluoroscopy, or angiography, are special applications of X-ray imaging, in which a fluorescent screen and image intensifier tube is connected to a television screen. This creates real-time images of structures in motion, such as blood vessels, intestines, or complex internal systems. This allows demonstrations of dynamic processes, and can reveal inconspicuous tumors, cysts, or inflammation.
CT imaging uses X-rays with computing algorithms to image the body. In CT, an X-ray tube opposite an X-ray detector in a ring-shaped apparatus rotate around a patient, producing a computer-generated cross-sectional image, or tomogram. CT have become the test of choice in diagnosing some urgent and emergent conditions, such as hemorrhage, clots in the lungs, appendicitis, and other conditions.
Medical ultrasonography uses high-frequency sound waves to visualize soft tissue structures in the body in real time. No radiation is involved in the procedure, as it involves sound waves going into the body. This procedure is used in pregnancy testing, and allows for early detection of fetal anomalies. The technology continues to evolve, and developments hint at 4D ultrasound images coming soon.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
MRI uses strong magnetic fields to align atomic nuclei within body tissue, then uses radio signals and frequencies to examine areas of the body. MRI scans give the best soft tissue contrast of all the imaging modalities, and is an important tool in musculoskeletal radiology and neuroradiology. MRI also has a great benefit in imaging the brain, spine, and musculoskeletal system.
Mammography is the examination of breasts utilizing low energy X-rays and fine detail digital imaging. Mammograms may be a screening examination, aimed at detecting breast cancer early on. It can also be a diagnostic study, to better define abnormalities, or to evaluate mass or other symptoms. Since 1990, when the technology was introduced, breast cancer rates have gone down 30%.
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