X-rays are nothing but a part of electromagnetic radiations. However, radiowaves and lightwaves are also part of electromagnetic radiation. But, x-rays, unlike lightwaves, hold the potential to penetrate the body due to higher energy in them.
It has almost been a century when x-rays first got discovered to be used for medical diagnostic purposes. And these have continued to be an important diagnostic tool when it comes to diagnosis or treatment of different illnesses and injuries.
Varied fields that use x-rays:
Radiography is one of the most common x-ray techniques, wherein an x-ray beam is produced using an x-ray machine. This beam is focused at the patient’s body part being tested and then at a special film with a purpose to form an image. Radiography tests are those tests that expose patients to minimum radiation dose, thereby protecting them against any risk.
Mammography is part of radiography, which is conducted in case of diagnosis of breast cancer. While the test poses the patient to a small risk, it helps in early detection of breast cancer, thus saving many lives.
X-rays are used in fluoroscopy to form a moving picture on a TV screen. The doctor may save still pictures or complete video. Fluoroscopy is extremely beneficial when it comes to testing the intestine or acquiring moving blood images in blood vessels. In order to obtain pictures of heart or leg arteries in an angiogram, the doctor may inject an iodine-based dye.
Flouroscopy may even help in guiding treatments like a nephrostomy, an obstructed kidney drainage, an angioplasty, or a narrowed artery expansion. As compared to radiography, however, the radiation doses may be somewhat higher.
- Computed Tomography (CT)
In case of CT scan or Computed Tomography, the patient is made to lie on a narrow table that goes through a circular hole in the scanner. Small x-ray beams traverse a body’s part on to detectors’ banks. Inside the machine, detectors along with x-ray sources rotate around and the body part image is made by a computer, which can be seen on a TV screen. The patient is moved through the hole so that images of different body slices could be taken.
When it comes to nuclear medicine or isotope scan, an x-ray machine is not used. Rather, an isotope i.e. a small dose of radioactive material is inserted into a vein, which is focused on a particular tissue or organ. Gamma rays are produced by it, which behave in the same manner as x-rays do. These rays are detected by a special camera, which forms an image of the activity taking place inside the body. After some days, the radioactivity inside the patient’s body decreases to report insignificant levels.