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Medical imaging

Medical imaging is the technique and process of creating visual representations of the interior of a body for clinical analysis and medical intervention. It seeks to reveal internal structures hidden by the skin and bones, as well as to diagnose and treat disease. It also establishes a database of normal anatomy and physiology to make it possible to identify abnormalities. Although imaging of removed organs and tissues can be performed for medical reasons, such procedures are usually considered part of pathology instead of medical imaging.

As a discipline and in its widest sense, it is part of biological imaging and incorporates radiology which uses the imaging technologies of X-ray radiography, magnetic resonance imaging, medical ultrasonography or ultrasound, endoscopy, elastography, tactile imaging, thermography, medical photography and nuclear medicine functional imaging techniques as positron emission tomography.

The type of imaging used depends on symptoms and the part of the body being examined. They include:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • Nuclear medicine scans
  • MRI scans
  • Ultrasound

In the clinical context, “invisible light” imaging is generally equated to radiology or “clinical imaging,” and the medical practitioner responsible for interpreting (and sometimes acquiring) the images is a radiologist. “Visible light” imaging involves digital video or still pictures that can be seen without special equipment. Dermatology and wound care are two modalities that use visible light imagery.

Diagnostic radiography designates the technical aspects of medical imaging and in particular the acquisition of medical images. The radiographer or radiologic technologist is usually responsible for acquiring medical images of diagnostic quality, although some radiological interventions are performed by radiologists. While radiology is an evaluation of anatomy, nuclear medicine provides functional assessment.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, medical imaging is one of the top development in diagnostic technology that “changed the face of clinical medicine” during the last millennium. Today, imaging and radiation therapy are cornerstones of quality care.

Medical imaging can be performed in hospitals or in independent community clinical laboratories or medical imaging centers.

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