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3 Innovative Applications in Radiologic Technology

X-ray Technologist Hospital

Heath engineering advancements have helped radiographers improve service delivery substantially over the last two decades. For instance, picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) now support digital viewing, enabling greatly increased productivity relative to traditional light boxes, films and scopes. PACS save hours spent hanging films, allowing technologists to spend more time evaluating patient diagnostics.

Physicians can save hundreds of lives every year using radiologic technology. [1] To improve patient outcomes, radiologists now choose powerful innovations such as virtual reality models and 3D printing in lieu of invasive diagnostic procedures. These advancements have transformed and improved diagnostic efficiency, digitization and safety.

Using Virtual Reality to Facilitate Accurate Diagnoses

Virtual reality radiologic technology allows some schools and physicians to view and interact with three-dimensional (3D) diagnostic images. [2] Using virtual reality viewers and styluses, physicians and learners can examine digital brains or dissect virtual tissue.

Virtual reality technology allows physicians to immerse themselves in diagnostic data. While most imaging software has 3D rendering capability, many physicians continue to work with familiar 2D diagnostics. They are not yet convinced that 3D interpretations offer sufficient value. This may change soon, as a new generation of 3D imaging software supports the ability to merge multiple data sources while improving treatment outcomes considerably.

Manufacturers have started reengineering consumer 3D viewing technology for medical use, and researchers are collaborating with advanced 3D imaging firms to develop a platform to pre-plan complex operations that surgeons now plan manually with pen and paper. The technology improves accuracy and safety while reducing preparation time. In academic settings, virtual reality reduces the costs associated with securing and managing cadavers for training purposes. During procedures, radiological technologists often work alongside surgeons during the planning process when operating 3D diagnostic equipment.

Mimicking Life With Art for Diagnostics: 3D Printing

Hands-on 3D printing workshops are extremely popular among attendees to the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual summit. [3] As in other fields, radiologic technology is gaining widespread adoption among medical practitioners. 3D printing has gained favor among dental professionals over the last ten plus years. Over the last three years, radiologic technologists have expressed interest in the technology at a rapidly growing pace. In response to care provider requests to provide more value, technologists have turned to 3D printing as an enhanced service offering.

So far, orthopedists have enjoyed the most utility from 3D printing diagnostics. Additionally, 3D printing adoption has started to spread beyond the orthopedic realm garnering the attention of specialists who focus on the abdomen; ear, nose and throat; heart; and research and quality control. As treatments grow more complex and diversified, the flexibility provided by 3D printing offers enhanced benefits for clinicians.

Radiologic Diagnoses As an Alternative to Invasive Procedures

Despite minimal risks, radiologic imaging represents a much safer alternative to invasive diagnostic procedures. As time goes on, physicians perform invasive surgeries less frequently; they now perform 95 percent fewer invasive procedures compared to 15 years ago. Instead, doctors use procedures such as computed tomography (CT) scans, which have reduced unnecessary readmissions and the accidental removal of healthy organs. Additionally, technology such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and ultrasounds deliver crisp, clear images that care providers can use to diagnose illnesses.

Compared to invasive procedures, radiologic imaging costs less and provides diagnostic information that is more precise. Radiologic technologists can provide physicians with detailed information about the functioning and condition of patients’ physiological structures that eludes discovery using invasive surgery and other imaging techniques. Technologists can also use a technique called image fusion, or co-registration, to combine images generated by different sources such as CTs and positrion emission tomography (PET).
The radioactive isotopes used in many radiologic diagnoses present a minimal threat compared to the risks that patients face when undergoing invasive diagnoses and procedures. In fact, over the last 50 years physicians have reported no long-term effects from the use of low radiation isotopes, and with the exception of an intravenous (IV) injection, radiologic diagnoses cause little to no patient discomfort.

Today, radiologic technology is the diagnostic tool of choice for evaluating many illnesses. Furthermore, the technology allows physicians to identify illnesses much earlier compared to other diagnostic procedures.

Presently, the biggest challenge for radiologic technologists is collecting sufficient patient data for improved image accuracy. A disconnect also occurs when radiologic technologists use different PACS software, a circumstance that limits the scope of available expertise for patient diagnoses. While this problem exists due to electronic health records (EHRs) stored separately on disconnected healthcare systems, work has already started on linking these information networks. Care providers around the nation are implementing medical data systems that can communicate with each other. In the near future, innovative technologies will link the combined expertise and skill of America’s talented radiologic technologists.

Learn More

The Adventist University of Health Sciences Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences online degree offers working imaging professionals an expanded opportunity to learn the technical, medical and people skills to help them continue their professional growth. Whether your goal is to provide a higher level of patient care or to advance your career by moving into management, education, consulting, or industry, the place to begin is with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences degree.

Recommended Reading

Innovations and Benefits of Mammography for Radiographers
From Analog to Digital Technology: The Evolving Role of the Medical Imaging Professional
The Advent of Teleradiology in Telemedicine



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