The Importance of Research

There’s more to the field of medical imaging than a bunch of stuffy radiologists huddled around a couple of monitors. As I mentioned before in my previous post about the history of the imaging technique, the field has undergone a rapid technological advancement in the past century or so, improving the clinical model of visualization. But let’s take a step back from all the scientific stuff for a brief second and look at these developments in a
slightly different light.

During the early stages of medical imaging, X-rays were able to provide people with an initial view of the internal structure of the human body. As limited as that first view may have been, it still played a pivotal role in both challenging and changing people’s perceptions on the human body – to the point where these details would eventually become common knowledge. Without all the major advancements in medical imaging, we could well expect to still be living in the dark.
To really hammer this point home, further advancements in the field would only continue to build on our understanding. What was once the accepted view of the human body has now been given a complete overhaul, thanks to the availability of imaging devices able to produce higher-resolution cross-sectional pictures.

The SparkNotes illustrated version of this post
So what’s the common thread in all of this? Research, of course. While the idea of research leading to new and exciting developments is a pretty basic concept in and of itself, it’s still an important one to keep in mind. Although the field of medicine is comprised of many different sectors, even at the base level there are plenty of opportunities to contribute meaningful ideas and suggestions. Just because you’re an undergraduate student, that doesn’t stop you from devising an independent thesis in an area you’re passionate about. Granted, I don’t want to be too idealistic here, given the logistics of funding, but an interesting and relevant pitch to your primary investigator
could go a long way. Who knows, you may find yourself presenting your findings at a research symposium, complete with nifty results and statistics to showcase your efforts.

The bottom line is, a little can go a long way, and if you already have a keen interest in science to start contributing as soon as possible. The entire medical field is driven by people with a knack for research and discovery – and while there’s never a shortage of great minds, there’s always room for more.
Thanks for reading,
Brandon Teteruck

A Crash Course in Medical Imaging

Oddly enough, there’s been a surprising lack of content about medical imaging on a blog with medical imaging in its title. So in order to fill that void, I’ll be providing a brief history on the development of the clinical technique used to visualize the human body.

The advent of medical imaging dates all the way back to 1895, following the discovery of X-rays by the German physicist, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen. The first X-ray picture was then produced, detailing the skeletal composition of his wife’s left hand. However, the actual quality of this imaging process was still very primitive, only allowing for the visualization of bones or foreign objects.

    Much to Dr. Roentgen’s pleasure, Mrs. Roentgen
    had not discarded her wedding ring
    It was not until the 1920’s that radiologists would develop a more effective method of visualization. This process, known as fluoroscopy, involved either an oral or vascular injection of a radio-opaque contrast agent, which would travel through the patient’s gastrointestinal track. Radiologists could then take films tracking the agent, allowing them to view blood vessels and digestive tracks alike.

      By the 1950’s, imaging procedures progressed towards nuclear medicine, involving radioactive compounds. These compounds were administered to patients because they could be absorbed by cellular clusters being invaded by tumours. As compounds decayed and emitted gamma rays, the recorded radiation could then be detected by gamma cameras, signalling the location of any cancerous developments. 
          The 1970’s were a period of rapid advancement for the field, as a number of modern imaging techniques were developed for clinical practice such as: 

            • Ultrasound – Uses sound waves that are able to penetrate cellular tissue. Once they reflect off the body’s internal organs, the vibrations generate an electrical pulse which can then be reconstructed into an image. 
            • PET-CT Scan – Positron emission tomography (PET) uses compounds that emit positrons when they decay rather than gamma rays. It is now combined with a computed tomography (CT) device to generate a high-resolution image displaying sectioned layers of the scanned area. 
            • MRI – A Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner runs a strong magnetic field through the body, aligning hydrogen protons. As the protons return to their original position in the atom, they generate radio waves, which are then picked up by the scanner and used to create an image based on signal strength. 

            Fast-forward to present day and over 70 million CT scans, 30 million MRI scans and 2 billion X-rays have been performed worldwide! The field of medical imaging is still growing by the day, with ongoing research leading to new developments.

              Thanks for reading,

                Brandon Teteruck