THE EVER EVOLVING UNION OF IMAGING AND TECHNOLOGY
The exponential relationship shared between medical imaging
and the continuing improvements in technology perpetuates multiple benefits to
the patients undergoing testing in multiple modalities. CAT scan, MRI,
Ultrasound, Nuclear Medicine, X-Ray and Mammography have all vastly improved in
the sensitivity, specificity, and quality of the results produced by each
modality due to the ongoing evolution of technology.
Nuclear Medicine technology has seen vast improvements in
the gamma camera systems used to obtain a vast number of scans, along with the
improvement of the isotopes used in nuclear imaging. In Cardiac Stress testing
alone, compact gamma cameras and computers now provide Cardiologists with the
capabilities of housing a fully functional Cardiac gamma camera in a limited
space. Large rooms dedicated to one gamma camera consisting of an ominous
looking gantry, complete with a sliding scan table are no longer necessary.
Several years ago, a small number of manufacturers introduced gamma camera
systems utilizing a chair design, rather than the industry standard table
This chair design allows for patients who have difficulty
being positioned on their backs for a short period of time due to back pain,
breathing issues, or shoulder issues (since the patient must have their arms
positioned above their heads for cardiac scanning) to be virtually pain free
while they are imaged. If the patients are more comfortable while being
scanned, they will tolerate the scan more easily, leading to improved image quality.
Digital processing and image production have also evolved
over the years. Gone are the darkrooms where the photographed images were taken
to be developed for viewing and interpretation. New graduates of Nuclear
Medicine programs believe that this old style of film production is more legend
than reality. Once the images had been processed, the nuclear techs then had to
take the images that were transferred onto film cassettes to the dedicated
darkroom for development. You would step into the turnstile that would take you
from the world of light into the darkened film friendly room where films could
continue their path to being produced.
The evolution of technology changed the way films are
produced. Improvements in imaging and processing software have greatly
minimized the time it takes to produce images and send them to an interpreting
physician. This more efficient throughput of imaging, processing and
interpretation allows for testing results to be given to the ordering physician
Let’s not forget the improved isotopes and chemicals used in
cardiac stress testing. Patients used to be sent away to eat a fatty meal once
the stress test was complete. They would return one hour later, allowing the
isotope to filter from the gallbladder, which could negatively affect the
cardiac images if the gallbladder contained too much of the isotope during the
scan. Slowly, the rules began to change as the isotopes began to improve. A
fatty meal is no longer required to improve image quality. Drinking cold water
prior to cardiac scanning is all that is necessary these days.
Chemicals used for cardiac stress testing have also evolved
with technology. Lexiscan has now become the popular chemical of choice for
cardiac stress testing, minimizing the time to perform a stress test. As
technology continues to improve, one can only imagine what positive changes it
will continue to bring to medical imaging.