One of the most important elements of modern medicine is the diagnostic process especially in medical imaging. Diagnostic errors may result in delayed treatments or worse, incorrect and potentially toxic medications. Over-diagnosis is also a concern, which often end up in over-treatment and undue stress to the patient. Getting the correct diagnosis is key to providing not just the correct medicines and/or medical procedures, but also the quick restoration of the patient’s quality of life.
There are various technologies that help with the diagnostic process. These include various medical imaging equipment, from microscopes, x-ray machines, to ultrasound and MRI machines and CT scanners.
Upon the collection of specimen like blood, spinal fluid, or muscle tissue, doctors prepare slides of these samples after which they are stained or dyed. Different cells react to different stains or dyes, and the resulting colors will help guide the doctors in determining the patient’s medical condition.
Once the slide is placed under the lens of the microscope, it’s only a matter of zooming into the cells to find out if anything is wrong. Most microscopes used in diagnostic processes are already automated and digital, and are up to 400 times more powerful than human vision, so even the smallest changes to a cell’s structure can be detected. Automated digital microscopes are also equipped with motorized microscope stages, which allows the operator to precisely position the sample for sequential or scanning imaging. Meanwhile, the objectives of these modern microscopes are fitted with linear motors so that they can be moved relative to the sample and maintain the required focus for clearer images.
X-Ray Machines and CT Scanners
One of the most common diagnostic imaging tools is the X-ray machine. Also called radiographs, X-ray machines send a blast of electromagnetic waves through the body part being scanned. Denser matter like bones and tumors absorb this radiation, so they appear whiter on the X-ray film or the resulting digital image. Soft tissues like muscle and ligaments allow the radiation to pass through, so they look more translucent. If there are solid white parts in these sections that are supposed to be clear, it simply means that something is out of place and your doctor may issue more tests.
CT scanners, on the other hand, use a combination of X-rays and computer imaging to take detailed, cross-section pictures inside the body. The usual targets of CT scans are the organs, such as the heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs, and pancreas, although it can also be used to study the blood vessels and bones. When done correctly, CT scans can reveal tumors and cancer cells, organ enlargement, infections, and blockages like kidney stones and embolisms, among others. CT scanners can also help doctors during tissue biopsy; the resulting image can guide the proper placement of the needle to prevent puncturing neighboring tissues.
Like CT scanners, MRI or magnetic resonance imaging machines also provide cross-sectional images. However, instead of using X-rays, MRIs use magnetic fields to take high-resolution photos of tissues. This is why you should advice your doctor if you have implants, pacemakers, or other metal objects as these can lead to false positives or even damage these devices.
In medical imaging technology, MRI machines work by creating a magnetic field around your body, and then pulsing radio waves to the part of your body that needs to be studied. Your tissues then vibrate, and a computer records and translates these vibrations into a two-dimensional image. Usually, MRIs are recommended to diagnose problems in the brain, chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
When people think of ultrasounds in medical imaging technology, they usually imagine a pregnant woman checking up on her unborn child’s health, or perhaps checking if she should buy pink or blue baby clothes. However, apart from fetal imaging, ultrasounds can also be used to diagnose conditions that affect the organs and soft tissues like the eyes, hear, kidneys, bladder, ovaries or testicles, and gallbladder. Because it uses high-frequency sounds that bounce against tissues in order to produce an image, an ultrasound isn’t used to take images of body parts that hold air or gas, like the intestines. However, ultrasound imaging may be used to guide doctors in needle biopsies as well as in treating soft-tissue injuries.
The first step in getting better is knowing exactly what disease you need to treat. Thanks to these medical imaging solutions, doctors can come up with correct diagnoses to help patients receive proper and timely medical care.