Radiology is a branch of medicine utilizing imaging technology to diagnose and treat diseases. More broadly, radiology involves the use of ionizing radiation, X-rays, to create images. In the healthcare system, these may include X-ray machines and CT scanners. However, X-rays have a storied history and are used across many disciplines to create images.
Keep reading to uncover facts about radiology and how X-rays are involved in everyday life.
An Accidental Discovery
Let’s start with the basics. The X-ray was named by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. In 1895, this German physics professor observed X-rays while experimenting in his lab. Noticing a green glow in his lab, he attributed this light to a new kind of ray – using “x” because the type of light was not known. Röntgen was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901 for this discovery, donating his winnings to his university in Germany and never patenting the technology. Soon after this discovery, X-rays were utilized in the medical field. Nowadays, digital X-rays are used every day to diagnose injuries and assist in patient care.
Unveiled the Structure of DNA
Dr. Rosland Franklin used X-ray diffraction microscopy at King’s College in London to study the structure of DNA. The best photo she took of DNA is called Photo 51, which is still printed in biology, physics, and chemistry textbooks today. Although she is not credited with discovering the structure of DNA, J. D Watson and F. Crick used her image, Photo 51, to deduce the double-helix model of DNA in 1953. Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1962.
NASA Uses Radiology
Did you know the sun emits electromagnetic radiation? Some of it is visible light, but inside the corona, X-rays are radiated. Indeed, telescopes in space are decked out with X-ray detectors that can detect the sun’s emitted rays, providing NASA with images of the sun. Scientists are then able to see how the energy flows within the corona.
Further, NASA can observe supernovas. An image of the supernova Cassiopeia A (Cas A) was created from telescopes in space detecting emitted X-rays. In combination with infrared data and optical data, scientists could observe how dust particles interacted in the supernova.
Dentist Use Radiological Images
In their daily practices, dentists use X-ray images on teeth and jaws, as the jaw bone and teeth contain dense tissue that will absorb the X-ray. This causes the bone and teeth to show up white on the image. Dental X-rays are used to diagnose diseases in the mouth, look at the position of teeth, examine jaw fractures, or evaluate the extent of bone loss caused by periodontal disease. Next time you’re in a dentist’s office, you may notice many different types of X-ray machines. Some offices may have a mobile, portable, or stationary machine, but all utilize radiology.
The first 3-D Mammogram Was in 2011
Mammograms are critical screening tests for breast cancer, and they’re a normal part of a health assessment. Before 2011, however, only 2D images were taken. In 2011, the first 3D mammogram was taken, offering several advantages to the 2D one. The 3D scan relies on radiological technology, reducing the need for follow-up images, detecting cancer more frequently when combined with 2D, and uncovering potential cancer more easily in dense breast tissue.
Fast and Painless
Before radiography was widely used in medicine, the only way for physicians to see inside the body was surgery. Now, with advanced technologies, radiography allows for noninvasive imaging of the inside of the body. Having an X-ray of a body part only takes a few minutes and is relatively painless. The good news is that there is usually no preparation needed for these scans. Since there is no surgery, there is no recovery time needed, either.
Not Exposed to Harmful Levels of Radiation
Medical imaging encompasses a wide array of imaging techniques, but radiology uses ionizing radiation. More specifically, X-ray machines and CT scanners use ionizing radiation: X-rays. Large amounts of radiation may be harmful and even lead to cancer. However, the amount of radiation a person is exposed to during one of these scans is nowhere near a harmful amount. Over the course of 10 days, a person is exposed to 0.1 mSv. This is also how much radiation is used during a chest X-ray – a helpful tool in any office.
Used to See Diseases, Not Just Broken Bones
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that impacts the lungs. If someone tests positive for TB, they will likely also need to get a chest X-ray, potentially showing cavities in the lungs if the patient has TB. The lungs can also have a different size, density, and shape in a TB diagnosis.
Shoes Used To Be Fitted Using X-Ray Imaging
In the 1930s – 1950s, a shoe-fitting fluoroscope was commonly used in shoe stores in England and the United States. A customer would place their feet into a wooden box with an X-ray tube at the bottom of it. Once turned on, the customer could peer inside the box eyepiece and view their feet inside the shoes.
Interestingly, art historians use radiography to examine painted artworks. This is a non-destructive way to gain insight into the artist’s creative process. Radiography allows historians to see inside the layers of the paintings, offering an understanding that helps aid in cultural preservation.
Radiology has an interesting history and impacts many disciplines. In the medical field, radiology is used to diagnose and treat diseases in the body using X-rays to create images. These images allow radiologists to see structures inside the body. Maven Imaging is a leader in X-ray equipment, including digital and mobile X-ray machines. Provide your facility and patients with high-level radiology equipment or ask for guidance in choosing the right machines – we’re here to help.