Radiology is a quickly-expanding medical field around the world right now. With new technologies coming to light and becoming more and more available, the science behind radiology is growing rapidly.
Understanding the standard definition of radiology is fairly simple. As defined by Google, radiology is “the science dealing with X-rays and other high-energy radiation, especially the use of such radiation for the diagnosis and treatment of disease.”
So while it’s easy to understand that x-rays or MRIs help doctors and radiologists with mapping out images of a patient’s body, you have to delve deeper to gain an understanding of how these machines work, and what they can do. Let’s take a look at a few of the more common forms of scans and what they can do.
These are probably the most commonly known scans of the bunch. The machines work by sending electromagnetic radiation (x-rays) through a patient’s body. Denser things like bones absorb these rays, while they’re able to pass through skin or breaks in a bone. Because of this, radiologists are able to create a 2-dimensional image of the injured location. If someone sustains a broken bone, x-rays are often used to assess where the break is located and how badly damaged the bone is.
Often Used for: broken bones, internal injuries, initial imaging before a MRI or CAT scan
While they may sound like the opposite, ultrasounds operate similarly to normal sounds, but at a frequency that the human ear cannot properly pick up. In the medical field, ultrasounds can be used to create digital images of the inside of the body without doing any harm to the internal organs or, in some cases, an unborn child. Sonography, as the process of imaging using ultrasounds is often referred, emits sound waves through a probe, which then bounce off of the subject, allowing the computer to create a three-dimensional image of the scanned object.
These images are captured in real-time (or at the speed of sound, more or less), very much unlike x-rays, and do not emit radiation, eliminating the risk presented by other scans.
Often used for: examining internal organs, seeing flow of blood, diagnosing internal injuries, examining unborn children
Short for magnetic resonance imaging and functional magnetic resonance imaging, these types of scans use strong magnets and radio waves to gain a more thorough insight into the tissue, bones and internal organs of a patient. Because they offer a cross-section of larger portions of the body, MRIs often take significantly longer to operate than an x-ray, but do not use any radiation.
Although MRIs and fMRIs are considered to be safer for most patients, those with pacemakers, Cochlear implants or other forms of metal contained within their bodies need to disclose this information to their doctor prior to any scans.
Often Used for: Examining tumors, cysts, abnormalities in joints
Radiology has been practiced across Canada for an extended period of time, and continues to evolve even today as new technology emerges. Those who are interested in exploring the field of radiology can visit the website of the Canadian Association of Radiologists to learn more about the education and certifications that are necessary.