The medical world is always growing and consistently discovering new advances to help patients around the globe. A large part of this industry is medical imaging technology. Without the proper tools, a radiologist and doctor couldn’t properly diagnose their patients. Medical imaging allows professionals to view what the human eye cannot see.
Let’s take a closer look at what this equipment involves and the vast benefits it produces.
What is Medical Imaging Technology?
Medical Imaging Technology is any advanced machinery or equipment that views the body in order to monitor or diagnose medical ailments and conditions. There are several different types of imaging technology (we’ll look at some in the next session), and each equipment provides different information regarding the body. Radiologists are the medical professionals who view and analyze the data received from the images.
Common Types of Medical Imaging Technology
Although there are many different technologies within the radiology industry, we’ll discuss three of them in this article. To fully appreciate the scope of medical advancements and improved patient care within radiology, it’s first important to understand how the technology works.
Ultrasound Imaging: An ultrasound creates sound waves at a high frequency to examine the inside of a patient’s body. By capturing the images in real-time, ultrasounds display current movements within blood flow and internal organs. Also, because the procedure requires no ionizing radiation, it’s safer than traditional x-rays. Implemented for over twenty years, ultrasounds have been instrumental in diagnosing many medical conditions and monitoring the health and development of fetuses during pregnancy.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRIs produce images of the body’s internal structure. By using radio waves and magnetic fields, MRI equipment can capture accurate images of soft tissue, water, muscle, and fat within the body. First, the electric current must flow through wires, which then establish a magnetic field within the body. Next, the radio waves are transmitted from and obtained by a receiver in the MRI machine. The signals are then used to create digital images. The entire procedure lasts anywhere between 20- 90 minutes and is essential in diagnosing a wide range of conditions, diseases, and ailments.
Computed Tomography (CT): a CT scanner is used to produce images of bones, internal organs, blood vessels, and soft tissue; however, it’s most effective in diagnosing bone tumors and bone fractures. This accurate and non-invasive procedure is painless and generally fast. Medical professionals also use it to produce images of internal injuries in emergency situations.
A CT scanner creates tomographic images by rotating around the body and capturing a series of cross-sectional images that offer detailed information about the body’s structure. Those images can then be stacked on digital software to create a 3D image. This imaging technology allows for accurate identification of tumors or abnormalities.
Improvements in Patient Treatment and Life Expectancy
Undeniably, medical imaging has improved patient care and life expectancy across the globe. A recent study analyzed medical data between 1991 – 2004 and produced some compelling results. Researchers discovered that life expectancy increased by 0.62 – 0.71 years during those 14 years. They also discovered that life expectancy increased at a greater percentage than the mortality rate triggered by obesity. Also, medical expenses decreased with the more prominent use of imaging technology, since its more cost effective than invasive and exploratory surgery.
Because radiology equipment allows medical professionals to diagnose conditions with higher accuracy, increased speed, and less cost, it has significantly improved patient treatment. With less invasive procedures, there’s less risk of potentially life-threatening surgery. Not to mention, through medical imaging, ailments can be detected earlier and better controlled. Since the onset of medical imaging technology, there’s been a reduction in cancer mortality and other potentially fatal diseases and conditions.
Through decreased costs and increased efficiency, radiology equipment makes diagnosis and treatment available to patients with various financial restrictions and health conditions. Through imaging technology, more patients can be diagnosed and treated in a shorter amount of time, effectively reducing the spread of disease and preventing further onset.
Based on recent data collected by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), the average estimated hospital stay costs Americans roughly $10,700. From this data, it’s clear that invasive surgery and procedures, depending on the scope, recovery time, and other contributing factors, can cost American patients an exuberant amount of money, especially with those facing low or non-existent insurance benefits.
Alternatively, medical imaging expenses cost a fraction of what invasive surgeries require. Here’s an estimate of how much Americans can expect to pay for medical imaging services:
CT Scan: $51 to $1565
Ultrasound: $55 to $410
MRI: $165 to $2048
Similar to most procedures, each cost depends on many factors, such as the scope of injury or condition, medical facility and location, and complexity of the procedure. However, these numbers are an average gathered by the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI) and are intended to display the vast price gap between invasive surgeries and medical imaging services.
Advances in Medical Imaging Technology
Advancements and innovations in the medical community continue to increase at an impressive rate. Scientists, engineers, and other professionals are continuously working to make medical imaging technology more efficient, less expensive, and more accurate.
Let’s have a look at some of the advances within the industry:
Open MRIs: you may already have the traditional image of an MRI in your head—a small, tube-like structure that whirs as it takes images of your body’s internal structure. Although this procedure isn’t painful, it can cause patients to feel extremely claustrophobic and uncomfortable. However, researchers have developed open MRIs that can ease this anxiety and offer less restrictive options. Previously, open MRIs weren’t as accurate. Yet, as the technology continues to develop, they are now just as accurate as traditional models. This advancement is also significant for obese patients who may not be able to effectively enter an MRI tunnel.
CT Angiography: angiography is the examination of blood vessels through x-ray technology. In previous procedures, a doctor had to insert a catheter into an artery with contrast material in order to receive an image. The x-ray images would then display any blockages, internal bleeding, or other issues. This entire procedure could take several hours and would, at times, require sedatives.
However, with a CT Angiography, this previously lengthily and complex procedure would take less time and offer more simplistic applications. To complete a CT Angiography scan, a doctor must first inject the contrast material into your arm. Afterward, the doctor can begin taking CT images of arteries in kidneys, lungs, legs, and brain. Rather than take several hours, this more advanced scan only takes about 10 – 25 minutes. Not only is it much faster, but it’s also safer and more cost effective.
Big Data Analytics: big data analytics can display real-time data throughout an imaging process. This data will notice certain patterns that apply to a specific pathology, meaning doctors and radiologists can achieve a better understanding of the patient’s medical history and more effective treatment options.
By using this new technology, medical professionals can receive a customized profile of their patients, while also saving valuable time in ciphering through various data. The quicker the doctor can receive the data, the faster they can start implementing treatment options, effectively reducing mortality rates and promoting a more accurate diagnosis.
3D Capabilities: 3D capabilities within medical technology allow for higher resolution images. This advancement can create higher quality images and produce more accurate results.
Portable MRIs: Portable MRIs are a significant advancement in the medical industry. Researchers and engineers at Japan’s Railway Research Institute have designed and created a significant technological achievement. By creating a palm-sized magnetic system, they’ve effectively produced a portable MRI that can offer accurate images without the restrictive and space-consuming machine or traditional MRIs.
Medical Imaging within the Operation Room: Medical imaging is no longer just for external patient care. It’s now being moved into the operating room. This advancement allows surgeons to view internal parts of the body that the human eye cannot detect. With radiology equipment, surgeons can know when a tumor has been fully removed and avoid harming healthy tissue. Also, during brain surgery, imaging technology can dramatically improve the operations.
Specialized MR equipment such as patient monitors, contrast injectors and non-magnetic stretchers and more are provided by companies like CSP Medical to help hospitals with new room sourcing needs.
The Future of Medical Imaging Technology
The future of medical imaging technology is promising, and it starts with AI advancements. Although AIs aren’t being designed to replace doctors, they are being implemented to discover relevant data that medical professionals need to diagnosis and treat patients. However, as an extension to Big Data Analytics, AIs will also review medical images for any issues or abnormalities. By processing the current image and combining it with the patient’s history, medical AIs can create a detailed, accurate, and extensive report on the patient’s current condition and how it may relate to their previous medical problems. This advancement significantly cuts down on human error, manual resources, and waiting times.
Also, medical imaging technology is also being designed to pay closer attention to the cellular and molecular levels of the body. In other terms, this means radiology equipment will soon detect abnormalities within the body’s physiology and metabolism.