Proper diagnosis is absolutely essential for modern medicine to be effective. Radiologists are at the forefront illness diagnostics through their mastery of modern medical imaging technology.

Over the last 50 years, our understanding of the human body has expanded exponentially, as advancements in medical imaging technology and expertise have emerged. And current generations can look forward to an equally precipitous explosion in this industry in the coming years and decades.

Advancements in brain diagnostic technology, in particular, have health care professionals poised for tremendous breakthroughs in the very near future!

And while skilled professionals and specialized experts will be leading this advancement, it is incumbent on all health care consumers to understand the medical imaging procedures that someday may help extend their lives.

Inspired by this informative visualization of the most common medical imaging technology created by the University of Cincinnati (UC), this primer compares the most established processes in use today, and how they contrast with the technologies that are emerging now, such as SPECT. UC is helping to create the radiologists of the future with their online health care programs that focus on preparing students for the innovations to come.

The most frequently used imaging technologies are those that have been around for decades. These include:

X-Rays, which use a light dose of ionized radiation to help produce a picture of the body’s internal structure. The technology is generally considered to have been discovered by German physicist Wilhem Rontgen, who began systematically studying X-Rays (a term which he coined) as far back as 1895!

Computed Tomography, aka CT Scans, is a technology that is able to produce images of much greater depth and detail compared to X-Ray images, which helps providers analyze the nitty gritty details of things like internal organs, bones, soft tissues and blood vessels. Originally conceived as a supplement to x-ray tech in the 1970s, CT has grown in popular and use in recent decades and is the go to for any situation in which a full body scan is necessary.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, aka MRI came into vogue in the early 80s, and has proven to be an extremely versatile imaging technique. MRI technology is capable of capturing both chemical and physical data, giving it added dimension in its diagnostic capabilities. Unlike CT scans, MRIs do not rely on ionizing radiation to produce its images, and thus is generally favored, though the MRIs are costlier and and more time consuming than X-Rays or CT Scans.

Positron emission tomography, aka PET has been around since the 1950s and is able to denote changes in cellular activity within the human body. It has proven to be very effective in detecting certain diseases in the early onset. More recently, technology has emerged that combines some of the features of CT Scans with PET, which has proven to be remarkably efficacious in helping to distinguish between benign and malignant disorders.

Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography, aka SPECT shares many of the characteristics of the more traditional imaging techniques listed above, but this nuclear medicine tomographic imaging technique is able to provide true 3D information and has proven to be a game changer. Brain SPECT has shown immense promise in uncovering and expanding our knowledge of many complex brain disorders such as dementia, clogged blood vessels that could lead to aneurysms, concussions and other head injuries. Moreover, the technology has heart disease applications as well, enabling doctors to identify and treat clog arteries before they become more problematic.


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