Skip to content
Font Size
A
A
A

Diagnostic Imaging: Beam Me Up Dr. McCoy

We're not quite at the Star Trek level yet with imaging technology, but recent advances are fine-tuning your medical care.

Smarter Use of Imaging for Screening continued...

"I think it's fair to say that at this point, the only cancer screening that we know to work in reducing the death rate is mammography," Hillman tells WebMD. "Everything else is undergoing testing or completely unproven."

But experts are trying to figure out how to use screening as a tool for people at higher risk of certain diseases. Lewin also says that as imaging exams become safer and more accurate, the pros of screening may outweigh the cons.

"As MR screening continues to improve, and as we lower the dose of radiation with CT, routine screening will make sense for a bigger and bigger proportion of people," he tells WebMD.

Imaging Moved Into the Operating Room

Soon, imaging tests may not only be used to diagnose disease. They may also become a key part of some medical procedures. During minimally invasive surgery, imaging will allow surgeons to see inside the body better, to improve treatment -- and minimize complications.

"Minimally invasive surgery and new imaging technologies are developing hand in hand," says Lewin.

"MRI in particular -- but also other technologies, like ultrasound -- may have the ability to monitor a surgery in real time," says Hillman. "They could potentially detect when all of a tumor was removed, or when a surgeon was accidentally beginning to harm normal tissue."

Lewin says that using MRI during brain surgery is already helping. "The studies are still being done," he says. "But I've seen that combining the surgeon's eyes with MR improves the operation. Because the human eye, even with a microscope, just can't see what an MR can see."

Eversman says that CT scans are starting to be used to create computer-generated models of the heart for use during surgery. "During the operation, the 3D model is shown on a screen, and it moves and rotates to show where the surgeon currently is in the heart," he tells WebMD. "It's a great innovation."

Experts say that imaging will become even more detailed and focused in the future.

"In the next 20 years, imaging technology is going to focus on the molecular and cellular levels," says Hillman. "Instead of only seeing the gross anatomy like we do now, we're going to be looking at metabolism and physiology." He says that PET scanning is the first step in this direction.

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.