We’ve all been there. That one extra rep, lift or circuit. Pushing ourselves to the limit in the hope we finally achieve our body goals! Then it happens. You feel something tear, or even worse, hear it snap! Hospitals are not places we are often eager to frequent. The beeping monitors, clinical smells, long corridors, and uncomfortable waiting rooms make for quite the unpleasant experience, not to mention the fact that any visit to a hospital is due to a problem with your health. But, if you’ve tore a muscle or ligament, or even broken a bone, you will most likely me sent to a medical professional in order to have some kind of scan.
This will allow more information to be gathered, a diagnosis to be confirmed, and a treatment plan to be reached. With the advances of modern technology over the years, imaging methods within the field of medicine have advanced rapidly. As we go through this article, you will learn more about these different imaging methods so that you know what to expect if you need to receive one in the future.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic resonance imaging, commonly abbreviated to MRI is nowadays commonly recognised by the cylindrical tunnel that patients must lie in to receive the scan. Since it was first developed in the 1970s and 1980s, it has proved to be a valuable tool in the detection and therefore treatment of various conditions. This fascinating machine uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create amazingly detailed images of the inside of the body.
Depending on the size of the area that needs to be scanned and the number of images that are collected, an MRI scan can take from 15 to upwards of 90 minutes. While the experience can be claustrophobic for some, the procedure itself is painless of proven to be one of the safest medical procedures in circulation. An MRI scan can be used to examine any part of the body, from the bones and joints to internal organs. MRI scans are even used in archaeology to scan mummies!
Many people familiar with the term ultrasound will associate this kind of imaging with the scans done for pregnant women to check the health and observe the gender of their unborn baby while still in the womb. Sometimes referred to as a sonogram, an ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to generate an image. Besides monitoring an unborn baby, ultrasound can be used to diagnose conditions and be the eyes for a surgeon during a certain operation. Ultrasound scans do not take very long, often only lasting between 15 and 45 minutes.
An external ultrasound is the one that most will be able to visualise – it involves using a probe that is moved over the skin and is commonly used to examine the heart or an unborn baby. It is also useful when examining internal organs in the pelvic area, such as the kidneys and liver. There are no know risks to ultrasound scans and they don’t involve any exposure to radiation like other scans do.
If you’ve been unfortunate to either have an injury or unexplained pain in a bone or joint, you no doubt will have been sent for an x-ray. Since the scientist Röngten discovered that x-rays can pick up bone structures, they have had many far reaching medical uses. Not only can x-rays be used to detect problems in bones and joints, and occasionally soft tissue, but they can also be used as the eyes for doctors and surgeons to guide them during certain procedures.
In some situations, a contrast agent may be supplied to the agent before the x-ray which will allow soft tissue to be picked up show more clearly on the x-ray. X-rays are safe, painless procedure with no aftereffects. The use of radiation does make people worry, but the body part being examined is only exposed to a very low level of radiation for a very brief moment of time.
Computerised Tomography (CT)
Branching off from the general x-ray, a computerised tomography, or CT scan, uses these rays to create very detailed pictures of things within the body. The scan will be in such detail that the radiographer will be able to see the internal organs, bones and even blood vessels. These CT scans can be used in the diagnosis of certain conditions, to guide further tests or treatment plans, and to monitor conditions to keep an eye on how problems are developing and responding to treatment.
Although looking similar to an MRI scanner, a CT scanner is just a ring as opposed to a tunnel so therefore it doesn’t surround your while body. It simply rotates around and scans one specific section of your body as you pass through the scanner, led flat on a bed. As these scans require the administration of a contrast dye, there is the risk of being allergic to this however otherwise these are painless and safe scans. Again, there is a very minimal exposure to radiation but not enough to put you off having a scan if the need requires it.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Often combined with CT or MRI scans are positron emission tomography scans, commonly known as PET scans. They work together to produce highly detailed images that show, not just what a certain body part looks like, but also how it is functioning. They detect the radiation given off by an administered substance known as a radiotracer. By tracking where this radiotracer builds up, radiographers are able to determine just how certain body parts are working. These sans can be used to investigate the spread and response of cancer, help plan complex heart and brain surgeries, and even diagnose disease, like that of dementia, that affect the functions of the brain.
Evidently, the technology of medicine, in particular the field of imaging, has progressed enormously in recent years. The various options are helping to save lives every day, diagnosing hidden problems and assisting professionals in advanced procedures. Technology is improving our lives all the time and in the industry of medicine, is becoming a powerful tool in the hands of skilled physicians.