A Brief History of Diagnostic Imaging

heart servicesDiagnostic imaging has evolved over the years to produce clearer, more efficient images. The medical industry uses diagnostic imaging every day to provide heart services at cardiovascular centers, to aid in emergency surgery services, diagnose bone breaks and fractures, and to provide ultrasounds at maternity centers. Effective diagnostic imaging is a crucial aspect of diagnosing and treating medical conditions. But how did this life saving technology become what it is today? Let’s take a look at a brief overview of the history of diagnostic imaging.

Wilhelm Rontgen was the first person to discover the x-ray. He was the groundbreaking physicist who introduced x-rays in January 1896. Rontgen actually took the first ever X-ray photograph of his wife Anna Bertha’s hand (Bertha famously said, upon seeing this historic x-ray, “I have seen my death!”). It wasn’t until years later that the clinical potential of this diagnostic imaging technology was recognized and commercialized.

When radiology first started being used in the medical field, the main examination involved focusing x-rays through the necessary body part. The image was then directly put onto a single piece of film in a special cassette tape. This process required long exposure times, which was found to be damaging. Fortunately, today’s x-ray methods only take milliseconds to complete. These early x-ray cassette tape images had poor resolutions and contrast.

Not too long after, contrast medium was developed. This significantly improved the visualization of organs and blood vessels, which could finally be seen more clearly. The contrast dyes were originally administered orally or through vascular injection. This development made it possible for doctors to see individual blood vessels, bile ducts, gallbladder, and digestive and gastrointestinal systems, revealing the human body in entirely new ways.

After the cassette tape images came fluorescent screens. A doctor could see x-ray images in real time by utilizing a fluorescent screen and special glasses. But this meant the doctor has to stare directly into the x-ray beam, leading to unwanted radiation exposure.

However, x-rays are hardly the only form of diagnostic imaging. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the principles of sonar technology were applied to diagnostic imaging. Ultrasound scanning involves placing a transducer against the area of interest. The transducer then produced high-frequency sound waves to penetrate the body and bounce off the organs inside. Once the sound waves are bounced back, the ultrasound machine receives the image of what’s inside. Because it doesn’t involve shooting potentially dangerous radiation directly at a developing baby, ultrasounds are an ideal technology for viewing fetal development in the womb.

Finally, in the 1970s, digital imaging techniques were implemented. Additionally, analog to digital converters were adapted to conventional fluoroscopic image intensifier systems. The adaptation of digital technology has helped create the ability to provide many services, including organ, bone, and heart services, over the years.

With bone fractures accounting for 3.5 million visits to the emergency room every year, diagnostic imaging is crucial in determining the best treatment method of not just breaks and fractures, but all other conditions as well. So whether it’s emergency heart services or taking a closer look at a kidney, diagnostic imaging is a critical element of modern medical care.

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