Thursday, November 17, 2005

Development and Utilization of X-Ray Technology

by David Smoot (Class of '05)

X-Ray technology is a form of medical imaging utilized around the world to evaluate diagnoses and cure disease. Each day, hundreds of thousands of diagnostic X-Rays are performed in the United States. X-Rays were originally invented and created by Sir Wilhem Roegntan in 1897. He developed the X-Ray by making a special cathode ray tube that emitted a new wave frequency or energy packet. Once the X-Ray was produced, it was then illuminated onto a special type of film making an image. Doctor Roegntan decided to experiment with his X-Rays and used a person’s hand in one of his experiments. When the film of this X-Ray was produced, Doctor Roegntan realized that the resulting image was a picture of the bones in the hand. Interesting enough, when the Doctor took the X-Ray, the person involved in his experiment was wearing a wedding ring. Doctor Roegntan recognized that the X-Ray could not penetrate the ring and was the reason why the film came out white around the man’s wedding ring finger. A new technology was born. All of a sudden people could see what was going on inside the mysterious human body.

X-Ray technology is a fancy form of photography. Just like photography is about light exposure, X-Rays are about light exposure and density. Depending upon the different densities and the level of transparency, the X-Ray beam’s encounters will determine the darkness of the image produced. For example, lungs appear black and the bones appear white. The lungs appear black because the X-Ray energy can pass through the lungs density and therefore the image can be developed. The bones are extremely dense and the X-Ray energy cannot pass bone thus not allowing the film to develop where the bones are. A black and white image is made, and due to the organ densities, radiologists can determine which organ is which. This is the basis of X-Ray technology.

Today there are many other sophisticated methods of producing an X-Ray image. Instead of using black and white film, X-Rays are now taken digitally and viewed on high-resolution computer screens. How ironic? Now that we are in the digital camera era, we have decided to go digital in the medical fields. In addition to the digital methods is a method that involves three-dimensional imaging. Three-dimensional images can be utilized using CAT (Computer Assisted Tomography) Scan techniques. In this technique, an X-Ray tube is rotated around a person or any type of object. The tube is rotated in a continuous fashion. A computer then collects all of the images that are made. This information is then plugged into a special mathematical algorithm that then produces a three-dimensional image. As most people predict, a 3-D image provides an exponential amount of diagnostic information as compared to a 2-D imaging system. All of a sudden, internal organ relationships are shown in complete detail. Regular X-Rays only show an image in a XY plane and are therefore less diagnostic.

X-Ray technology is a little over 100 years old. The utilization of X-Ray’s in medicine has revolutionized the physician’s ability to make an accurate diagnosis.


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