History of Medical Imaging – A Brief Overview

The concept of medical imaging began in 1895 with the invention of the x-ray by a German professor of physics, Wilhelm Rontgen. The concept of x-ray is based on the principle of passing ionizing radiation through the body and having the images projected on a photosensitive plate placed behind it. The different densities of the tissues within the body will be detected when the plate is developed and will be able to show abnormalities that may be present. In the early 1900’s it was discovered that by using pharmaceutical contrast agents it would be possible to see organs and blood vessels.
In the 1950’s nuclear medicine started to utilized as a way to diagnose pathology in the body. This is based on having the patient infused with radionucleotides that are combined with pharmaceutical compounds that will find their way to organs or groups of cells that are more active than others. These images are recorded by a gamma camera and can detect medical problems earlier than other tests.
During the 1960’s sonar was beginning to be used after having been used for many years as a war time tool to detect enemy ships during World War Two.  High frequency sound waves are transmitted through a probe into the body and these sound waves are then bounced back to the probe where they are converted into electrical pulses showing us images on a screen.
In the 1970’s Computed Tomography (CT scan) was developed. The concept of this technology is to take a serial series of images of slices of the body and to then put them back together with a computer to visualize internal structures of the body.
Also in the 1970’s the technology of MRI was developed which works on the principle of nuclear magnetic relaxation times. With the very powerful magnetic forces that are used, the alignment of protons in the cells will be examined to determine if there is a problem with tissues in the body.
Medical imaging has improved immensely since the first x-rays were taken over 120 years ago. There is much more accuracy in diagnosing a medical problem and because of these advances, there is also much less need to perform exploratory surgery. This hopefully will lead to early diagnosis and better treatment options for many patients.200470369-001

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