Remember how easy medicine was on the “Starship Enterprise” TV series?
Dr. McCoy diagnosed the illness of a crew member immediately by holding a palm-sized device over the painful spot.
In real life, diagnostics aren’t as advanced as they are in spaceship Enterprise.
But technological advances in medical technology have expanded the possibilities of making details of the human body visible.
Today, physicians have more diverse and better imaging techniques than ever before.
Medical technology has developed methods such as X-rays and computed tomography.
Not only do they reduce the need for diagnostic surgery, they also enable early diagnosis.
Modern medical devices
The field of medical technology is diverse and highly innovative.
Especially with regard to medical devices for the diagnosis of various diseases, technology has developed at a breathtaking pace in recent years.
Looking around at the trade fairs, one discovers new technical innovations at every single one.
They support the doctor’s diagnosis and make things visible in the body without a medically safe intervention being necessary.
Software is gaining in importance
The term “medical devices” is considered to be a generic term. These include the scalpel as well as the Magnetic Resonance Imager (MRI).
If imaging diagnostic devices (above all ultrasound, X-ray and MRT) are excluded from the group of medical devices, the following main technical developments can be simplified:
- are more efficient,
- are faster,
- provide better pictures,
- are more comfortable and much more patient-friendly,
- store images digitally, which makes a
- subsequent processing of the images.
- Digital image processing following X-ray, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging allows insights into the body that were not possible before.
A few years ago, it was possible to view the undrilled child in the womb in 3D. Nowadays, 3D imaging of certain areas of the body is possible in real time.
In addition, digital images can be used to process the images in such a way that the doctor obtains better image results.
For example, the radiation dose of X-ray devices is considerably reduced compared to older devices.
Advantages for doctors and patients
Patients benefit from these technical achievements because they no longer have to wait so long for appointments and receive valid diagnoses more quickly.
In addition, digital patient management reduces the need for unnecessary duplicate examinations.
Of course, this technology has its price, which not every doctor can afford.
For some doctors, it is not necessary to constantly purchase new medical technology, since older medical devices are suitable in their field of activity.
How to master an MRI examination despite fear of space
With claustrophobia it can be very stressful to be driven with the head or the feet first into the tube of a magnetic resonance tomograph (MRT).
During this examination, the patient must lie in the tube for up to 30 minutes and remain calm.
If you discuss these anxieties with your doctor and the Radiological Technical Assistant (RTA) beforehand, you will obtain the necessary examination results by trying the following:
- Get to the examination early – This will give you plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the procedure.
- Find a way to calm yourself – A number of techniques will help you calm yourself down. These include blindfolds, headphones, a cold washcloth on your forehead, or soothing music.
- Bring a friend – A friend will accompany you to the MRI room and hold a hand or foot. If you choose a sedative, that person can drive you home.
- Speak – Ask the radiology assistant to talk to you during the examination or take short breaks. You may speak during the examination.
- Consider a sedative – prescription drugs such as lorazepam (e.g. Tavor®) can help.
- Use an open MRI – These devices are less confining and either open on three sides or shorter and larger in diameter. However, these devices are not available everywhere and their image quality may not be as good.
- In extreme cases, an anaesthetist will put you under anaesthesia.
More than 100 years after its discovery, X-ray diagnostics remains a valuable diagnostic method.
The chest x-ray is one of the most frequently used imaging techniques.
X-rays reveal changes in body tissue, such as bone diseases or tumours in the lungs or chest.
The gastrointestinal tract can also be imaged.
In addition to X-rays, modern computed tomography also depicts the inside of the human body more accurately.
One of the most common examination methods used by physicians to image a section of the body layer by layer is the CT scan:
- Ultrasound (sonography)
- Computer tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, NMR, MRI)
- Modern medical imaging technology enables physicians to obtain views of the human body that would otherwise be unthinkable.
Ultrasonic procedures do not use radiation. Instead, they use high-frequency sound and sophisticated computer analysis.
Ultrasound represents the movement in internal organs as well as the movement of a fetus during pregnancy or the flow of blood through a vessel.
Ultrasound is particularly suitable for providing information on the shape, composition and composition of tumours and cysts.
Many doctors use it to examine abdominal organs (kidneys, liver, pancreas and gallbladder) as well as breast, uterus, ovaries, prostate and thyroid.
In heart diagnostics, ultrasound is also used to assess cardiac activity (echocardiography).
Doctors are increasingly using ultrasound diagnostics to detect narrowing (stenosis) of blood vessels.
The large cervical vessels (carotid arteries) are often examined by ultrasound in order to assess the possible risk of a stroke.
This method also helps in the diagnosis of dilated arteries (e.g. aortic aneurysms).
Ultrasound examinations are considered painless.
While you lie relaxed on the examination table, the physician places a rod-shaped device (transducer) on your body.
It emits inaudible sound waves which it sends back to the transducer.
A computer converts these reflected sound waves into a moving image. In most cases, such an examination takes less than 30 minutes.
Computer tomography (CT)
A computer tomogram allows the physician to view an organ in two-dimensional “sections”.
With this method, a series of very fine X-rays are sent through the body.
A processor-controlled image processing system, which works in fractions of a second, compiles images from the measured values.
This medical technique provides detailed cross-sectional images of the arms, legs, brain, chest and abdominal organs.
CT images are particularly helpful in diagnosing tumours, bleeding or infections within large organs.
In order to better depict the area to be examined, the doctors almost always use a contrast medium to a kind of “staining”.
The contrast medium is injected into a vein or swallowed during abdominal examinations.
CT scans are painless and generally take less than ten minutes.
They simply lie still on a moving table that slides into a long tube where the images are taken.
It is even faster with spiral computer tomographs, which record the entire body in 30 seconds.
High radiation exposure with full-body CTs
Some clinics are increasingly offering their patients the possibility of whole-body scans in a computer tomograph (CT).
This diagnostic method better detects cancer or heart disease. However, good predictive quality has not yet been proven.
In September 2004, radiation physicians at Columbia University in New York warned in the specialist journal Radiology of a not inconsiderable radiation risk.
A CT scanner also works with X-rays.
According to the experts, the radiation dose is about as high as that to which the survivors of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima or Nagasaki were exposed.
And in these cases, for example, the cancer rate later increased significantly.
A single whole-body examination increases your overall cancer risk by 0.08 percent.
This is no reason to panic, but in any case a reason not to be examined more often than absolutely necessary.
With normal X-ray examinations or a partial body CT, the radiation dose is 100 times lower than with a full body scan.