Different types of medical imaging technology include standard x-rays, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, and medical thermograghy. Certain methods of medical imaging technology are better than others in diagnosing various medical conditions. For example, a traditional x-ray is not effective in evaluating conditions of the soft tissue. X-rays are very effective, however, in evaluating bone breaks or other bone abnormalities. Traditional x-rays use ionizing radiation and may, over time, contribute to certain cancers.
Another type of medical imaging technology, known as an ultrasound, uses sound waves to capture pictures of soft tissues and surrounding structures. Obstetricians often use ultrasound technology to evaluate the progress of a growing fetus because ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation, and is considered a safe alternative to traditional x-rays. Radiation can be harmful to an unborn baby and may even contribute to birth defects.
The ultrasound is considered very safe, and no preparation is needed prior to the test. Sometimes, however, depending upon what is being scanned, the patient may be required to drink large amounts of water before the test. This is done so that the bladder can fill up and move out of the way. An empty bladder can sometimes obscure other organs, while a full bladder enlarges and leaves room for the technician to capture optimal images for the physician to interpret.
Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging technology that uses radioactive isotopes to treat and diagnose certain medical conditions. The nuclear medicine technologist has completed a course in nuclear medicine, and who administers the examination and also monitors the patient for adverse or allergic reactions to the radioactive material or contrast dye given prior to the test. Nuclear medicine examinations are effective in diagnosing conditions of the gallbladder, thyroid, and heart.
Students of medical imaging technology learn about anatomy and physiology, as well as how to administer various imaging procedures. In addition, educational requirements vary from a certificate program to post-doctoral degrees. Most community colleges, universities, and certain vocational and trade schools offer medical imaging programs. For advanced medical imaging technology degrees, course pre-requisites include biology, chemistry, and algebra, and jobs can be found in hospitals, doctor's offices, and clinics.
A physician who specializes in medical imaging technology is called a radiologist. Interventional radiologists often perform minimally invasive procedures, such as the placement of tubes into the kidneys or bile ducts, and perform angiograms and angioplasties. These cardiac tests involve using x-rays to guide a catheter into the femoral artery to check for blockages in the cardiovascular system.