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When a patient seeks medical attention complaining of symptoms which are inside the body, there are other options besides invasive surgery in order to diagnose the illness. In the medical field, radiology is a branch of medicine which uses imaging to determine diagnosis and treatment for a patient. X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, and more, all fall under this category of radiology. Specially-trained technicians are responsible for administering these scans and interpreting the findings. Sometimes known as radioscopy or clinical radiology in order to differentiate it from other forms of non-medical radiology, this tool has been helping patients for decades.
Types of Radiology
Projectional radiography was the first type of radiology available in the medical field and was alone in this category for over 50 years. This works by sending X-rays through the body following which they are captured by a device which converts them into light. This light produces a clear black and white picture, which when held up to light shows a picture of the inside of the body. Another type of imaging process in radiology is fluoroscopy. This shows a real-time moving picture of what is going on inside the body. The patient is injected with or swallows a radiocontrast agent which is absorbed into the body so that abnormal tissue in the body is highlighted. The images are then viewed on a closed-circuit television where through a fluorescent screen and image intensifier.
Computed tomography imaging, more commonly known as CT scans, combines X-rays and computers in order to view images from inside the body. It essentially takes images of slices of areas of the body. This type of scan is increasing in use, with tens of millions taking place each year in the U.S. alone. However, some believe that this is also connected to an increase in cancer. An ultrasound is a very different type of imaging process in that is uses high-frequency sound waves in order to view the tissues within the body. This type of scan can be more or less accurate depending on the skill of the individual administering the test as well as the fact that fat, air, and bones can decrease the image quality. These tests used to only be able to be viewed in 2D, but can now be viewed three-dimensionally in real time.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another common type of imaging process and works by using a radio frequency signal to determine how the nuclei in the body move and are disturbed. The patient has to stay very still for a long period of time and sometimes the claustrophobia felt by patients within this enclosed space is enough to cause them to be unable to finish the scan. What happens when a scan needs to take place in an emergency situation? As it takes a trained specialist to read these images, teleradiology involves sending the scan to another county so that a specialist in a different time zone can interpret the results.
What are the dangers of radiology?
It is estimated that there are over 2,000 radiology errors every year which result in harm to the patient. One major type of error is human negligence or carelessness. If they fail to administer the CT scan, X-ray, or ultrasound correctly, the image produced may be inaccurate. There could also be an error in regards to diagnosis. Even if the picture is clear, the radiologist may interpret the findings erroneously. For example, they may see an abnormality in the image, but assume it is something other than what it is. In other cases, a lack of communication could result in harm to the patient. The radiologist may see something is amiss in the scan, but then fail to let the doctor know what they found.
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