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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.

Imaging Moved Into the Operating Room continued...

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.

In general, imaging technology is certain to become faster and more accurate. More combination devices -- like the CT/PET scan -- are inevitable. "There are some prototype PET/MR scanners now," says Hillman. "And people are talking about CT/MR scanners." Fusing different imaging techniques will allow doctors to get a much fuller understanding of a person's condition.

"In our lifetimes, I don't think that we will reach the technology of Star Trek, where you can wave a wand over someone and instantly diagnose them," says Eversman. "But step by step, we're getting there."

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Reviewed on February 23, 2006

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