I just read this article about the benefits and drawbacks of CT scans. According to the article, CT use has increased by 16% a year, since 1995. The problem with CT scanners is that they expose patients to more radiation than other means of medical imaging. Some people are wondering if the benefits outweigh the risks, although most of the medical community agrees that CT scans are worth the risk.
Certainly CT scans provide radiologists with much higher quality images.
The left is a CT scan somewhere in the abdomen. The right is a traditional chest x-ray. Clearly, the CT scans provides the radiologist with a lot more information, at the cost of more radiation. CT scans are one of the few effective ways to see that much information inside a human body.
Are there other options? Of course. MRI is another very powerful imaging technology that can provide even more detail than CT.
MRI is one of the only imaging techniques that can see soft tissue in detail. It's also one of the only imaging technologies that is completely non-invasive. No radiation is used and it's 100% safe to use. So why haven't MRIs replaced CT scans? Money. MRIs are a lot more expensive than CT scans. I think one important research topic in the medical imaging field is how to bring down the costs of MRI. The increase in availability of these machines could have a huge positive impact on health care quality. It would allow doctors and radiologists to see a great deal of information in the human body, without putting the patient in any risk.
It's interesting to see how these technologies will change in the future. Hopefully I'll get a chance to see how they work first hand during a work term down the line or something.