Monthly Archives: December 2014

Banana for scale.

Ah the end of December… the dawn of winter and the true start of the skiing season. This post might apply to you if you like to slide down those snowy slopes during the winter break.

Yes, another X-ray post.SKIRAYSo humans and X-rays form a bad combination, we know that. But even today: if you run into the hospital with some broken bones or a weird feeling inside, chances are the doc will prescribe you an X-ray.

But why? Radiation is bad, so why are we still using it if there are ‘less’ harmful methods available?

I’m talking about methods like ultrasonic imaging, MRI’s, endoscopic cameras, etc… MRI for example is a powerful tool that can provide a pretty good image of what’s going on inside someone’s body. Since it is considered harmless, unlimited scans may be applied to a patient and even videos can be recorded, similar to ultrasonic imaging for pregnant women. You might have already encountered this viral video online:

There we go again… ‘Defending’ Roentgen technology;

Getting an X-ray for that broken arm, rotten tooth or even cracked ribs actually… isn’t ‘that’ bad, the image below shows you a comparison of radiation doses. Getting an X-ray taken for that broken arm from the snowboarding incident actually just equates to eating 10 banana’s. Hell, if you went to your skiing resort by car you can crack your ribs and break a leg and still get less radiation compared to someone who flew to the mountains.

radiationSource

 CT scans are however a different story, essentially being a lot of X-rays in a row the dose received from one scan is pretty high and radiologists have to be careful prescribing one for a patient. So, returning to the question we asked in the beginning, why are we still using X-rays if different technologies are readily available?

Well actually… MRI’s and CT ‘s are just so different that they are used in a complementary fashion. Both methods largely provide different feedback as you can see in the image below.

ct-vs-mri-3up-b

This link leads to an article where a doctor discusses a comparison of both methods for brain scans, listing advantages and disadvantages of both methods compared to each other, ultimately concluding that the choice of method ultimately depends on each individual patient case. In the future CAT and MRI machines might become one combined device (source) in which the radiologist might perform a combined overall scan or choose what they need to find out whats wrong. That’s how inseparable they are…

Same goes for other technologies, this link leads to a scientific paper, discussing that ultrasounds may be used to diagnose bone  fractures in children.  But again their conclusion is also that a combination of both might be necessary dependent on individual patient cases.

The same rule actually applies to industry. There’s lots of ways to examine stuff without destroying them ( NDT’s discussed in previous posts by Jeroen). There is however, no general best solution out there. Most of the time a combination or iterative choice process of different methods is required to get the best results.

But talking about NDT’s… If industry can use these methods to preventively check if products/constructions are built correctly, why aren’t we doing this for humans for gods sake? Getting a scan of any sort is usually an expensive process that is only refunded if prescribed and deemed necessary by a doctor… In Belgium only some preventive scans are fully refunded such as breast scans for woman.

I personally think it wouldn’t be bad to include a preventive full body MRI in standard medical checkups such as the ones you get in high school (NL: Medisch Onderzoek)… every 20 years or so.

What do you think about this? Would this be a waste of money, resources and time ? Or exactly the opposite in the long run by early detection of certain conditions?
And, if full body scans without deliberate prescriptions were made free today, would you go get one tomorrow?  Currently this is only possible with specialized companies such as “prescan” ; http://prijzen.prescan.nl/total-body-scan/voorbeelden-prijzen/ .
Same question for the actual situation today: are you willing to spend €1000 on a basic full body scan?

Discovering the old with the new

Archaeology_Trowel[1]

When we think about archaeology, we probably all think about Indiana Jones and people in the desert slowly shuffling sand out of the way, to lay bare an ancient artifact. This was how it was done several decades ago, when Howard Carter discovered the pyramid of Tutankhamun , but in present day, this image is wrong.

An modern archaeologist uses technologically advanced tools and methods to try and find new dig sites and to examine found artifacts.

This article gives us an insight of how archaeologists use Non-destructive testing methods and tools to get good results.

Finding new site to dig is no longer just looking at old maps in dusty libraries, it’s using satellite images, radars and measuring changes in the magnetic field of the earth or soil resistivity  to determine if it’s worthwhile to start excavating a site.

There are even research teams that use simulations and modeling to predict where artifacts can be found, based on know locations of ancient tribes and societies, the movements of those tribes/societies, possible movements in the earths crust,…

Once a location is determined and the first artifacts are found, these go to the lab for further testing. No longer are they just described and drawn/photographed. Nowadays a large array of techniques is used to find out as much as possible from every artifact found. Isotope geochemistry,radiocarbon dating even CT-scans and other medical examinations are used to truly found out everything there is to know about the pieces found.

I find this evolution and the use of these modern techniques fascinating, as it is truly a clash of old and new: using the newest, most advanced tools available to discover and research remains of the oldest life known to us.