Archives of Medicine and Health Sciences

: 2017  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 275--278

History of Medical Imaging

Yousif Mohamed Y. Abdallah 
 Department of Radiological Science and Medical Imaging, College of Applied Medical Science, Majmaah University, Majmaah, Saudi Arabia; Department of Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine, College of Medical Radiological Science, Sudan University of Science and Technology, Khartoum, Sudan

Correspondence Address:
Yousif Mohamed Y. Abdallah
Department Radiological Science and Medical Imaging, College of Applied Medical Science, Majmaah University, Majmaah; College of Medical Radiological Science, Sudan University of Science and Technology, Khartoum, Sudan


Nowadays, millions of studies perform daily around the world. Medical imaging developed throughout for >100 years. It is used to visualize the different body structure and the functional activities. This information is useful in judgment and management of different pathological conditions. This study aimed to study the historical development of medical imaging modulates. The new technologies decrease the radiation dose to the least levels.

How to cite this article:
Y. Abdallah YM. History of Medical Imaging.Arch Med Health Sci 2017;5:275-278

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Y. Abdallah YM. History of Medical Imaging. Arch Med Health Sci [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 May 25 ];5:275-278
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Medical imaging started afterward innovation of X-rays in November 1890 by Wilhelm Röntgen. He worked with cathode tube known as a Crooke's tube. He observed some of the imperceptible radiations with capability to infiltrate some objects inside the human body (soft tissues) better than the rest (bone). X-radiation were used to diagnose the diseases initially before the hazards of ionizing radiation were revealed. The radiation moves through the light velocity into the tissues, gradually penetrated, and engrossed. This new type of mystery radiation many years later knew as X-rays. He gave Nobel Award in 1901. This radiation used to assess the different types of pathology such as bone fractures. The film used for X-rays imaging are contained sensitive chemical materials for image recording. Those films were processed using wet or dry processor in a dark room [Figure 1].[1],[2],[3]{Figure 1}

For visualization of moving organs, another technique of radiology was introduced known as fluoroscopy. In the 1920s, the radio-opaque dye was presented to study the gastrointestinal tract. It was used to study different changes of anatomy and physiology of the tissue. X-rays used also for breasts imaging to diagnose different disorders, which affected them.[4] Initially, the radiation dose from this application was too high, but it decreased gradually after many years of researches. New breast imaging systems replaced the old systems, which is digital and high resolution [Figure 2].[5]{Figure 2}

The tomography imaging using X-rays was introduced in the 1940s, which could allow imaging of all body tissues. This was attained by spinning the X-rays tube around the patient to scan only the desired area. It was replaced by computed axial tomography many years later. Now, both cross-sectional modulates are demonstrating the anatomy and pathology in cuts rather than the conventional radiology imaging. X-rays are used for scanning of blood vessels. Earlier, a radio-opaque dye was administrated to the area of interest.[6],[7] The contrast agents were introduced between 1906 and 1912 to aid the organs and vessels detection. It could be used to imaging of cononary artery to detect the thrombosis or blockage by injecting the dye into the artery used catheter under guiding of radiation. In the 1950s Seldinger method, in which the arterial puncture, was used in the femoral artery in the thigh. An elastic guide wire is introduced through the elastic catheter and is passed over the guide wire and run through the blood vessels to the desired organ [Figure 3].[8],[9]{Figure 3}

Contrast medium (or contrast agent) is a material used to improve the difference of tissues or liquids inside the body in radiology. It is frequently used to improve the discernibility of circulatory and the digestive system. Numerous kinds of contrast media remain in use in radiology. They can be divided according to the scanning techniques and their uses. The modern kinds contrast agents improve X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) signal improvement. Iodine and barium are famous kinds of contrast medium for improving radiology imaging approaches. Numerous types of iodinated and barium contrast media used with differences in osmotic concentration and viscidness. Nonionic agents are preferred for their little osmolarity and poisonousness, but they are so expensive. MRI contrast led to reduce the water rapidly and improving the quality of MRI image. Microbubble contrast agents improve ultrasound image quality. These bubbles consisted of agitated saline liquid, most of which are too big to permit through the respiratory system vessels.[10],[11]

In the 1950s radioactive imaging was introduced as one of the analytic tool in diseases detection and treatment. Nuclear medicine is capable to give information about the specific organs or tissues relating to their site, shape, size, and function. The radionuclide materials are mixed with drugs and injected intravenously. They frequently chemically compound to a mixture that turns typically within the body; this is called as a tracer. Those tracers disturbed throughout the body depend on their nature (Methyl diphosphate gives to skeletal tissues). Then, the sensors catch and form the images from emitted radiation. The technique is different from the X-ray tube. The history of nuclear medicine is full with many scientists who disturbed in the development of this application. Starting from the discovery of the radioactivity in 1934, it developed rapidly until its first use in medicine in 1946. In 1920, a German scientist called Geroge de Hevesy did tests with radioactive substances injected in mice to show the metabolic paths of those materials. In 1936, John Lawrence introduced the first use of radioactive material, which was phosphorus-32 for leukemia management.[12],[13] In 1934, Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie described their discovery of radioactivity as results of polonium elaboration. Their efforts made upon many scientist like Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen, H. Becquerel, and M. Curie for different radionuclide materials. In 1946, Sam Seidlin described the introduction of Iodine-131 in thyroid tumor treatment. In 1937, Perrier and Segre revealed and industrialized the technetium-99m, which later extensively used in nuclear medicine. Benedict Cassen and Anger established the rectilinear scanner and anger camera, respectively. In the 1960s, Lassen, Ingvar, and Skinhøj introduced the xenon-133 in brain and its vessels imaging for neuropsychiatric patients. In the 1980s, the single-photon emission computed tomography was introduced to scan the heart disorders. In the 1950s, Kuhl and Edwards established the positron emission tomography (PET). The first fusion PET-CT machine was introduced by Hasegawa and Townsend in 1998. In 2011, the entirely combined MRI/PET machine was introduced [Figure 4].[14]{Figure 4}

Ultrasound is mechanical wave with rate of recurrence above the human hearing limits. It has the same characteristics of the sound. It has range above 20 kHz. It has several applications in medicine as noninvasive tool. Pythagoras introduced the sound science in 600 BC. In 1917, Langevin introduced the first sound use in submarines revealing. The piezoelectric phenomenon was exposed by Jacques and P. Curie in 1880. Sokolov introduced the possible application of ultrasound in scanning. In 1939, he used 3 GHz frequency that is produced poor resolution. Ultrasound scanning uses for medical purposes. In the 1970s, G.N. Hounsfield and A.M. Cormack were given the Nobel Prize in medicine for the development of computed tomography (CT).[15],[16] This technique uses computer-processed X-rays to scanning tomographic slices of specific areas of the body. It provides a better insight into the pathogenesis of the body, thereby increasing the chances of recovery. Hounsfield's CT machine took numerous hours to obtain a solitary slice and 24 h to restructure the image. Today's CT units can obtain and restructure a solitary slice in fracture of second [Figure 5].[17]{Figure 5}

A CT uses both computer and X-rays technologies to obtain the cross-sectional imaging in shape of very small cuts. It can produce the three-dimensional slice of the scanned object. It is used for all diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. It works as X-ray machine but it spins around the axis of the object. During it spinning around the patient, the radiation sensor (detector) move in another direction to receive the incident radiation. After data obtained the high-speed computer, begins to restructure the image.

In the 1900s, Vallebona anticipated focal plane tomography to signify the body on X-rays film.[12] The results of this image were blurred and unclear. In 1917, Radon introduced the first algorithm, which used for image restructure. His theory depends on the rebuilding of many plans use the calculated arrays of equations. In 1937, Kaczmarz introduced linear arithmetical equations. Those equations were powerful tool in CT and used in the first scanner. In 1956, Bracewell used radon algorithms to map solar particle emission. In 1961, the first X-ray tube and detector rotated machine used by Cormack. In 1968, McFadden and Saraswat recognized scanning rules for diagnosis of the abdominal pathology using CT imaging.[18]

MRI is imaging modality that uses the magnetic power in scanning the different parts of the human body. This robust magnetic power causes the arrangement of hydrogen nucleus elements, named protons. The movement of protons is responsible for image formation.[19] The signal sends to the computer to reconstruct then displayed in the monitor. It was invented by Lauterbur in 1971. In the 1950s, E. Hahn and Herman Carr introduced a one-dimensional NMR. In 1959, J. Singer introduced blood movement by NMR. In 1967, Ligon studied calculation of NMR relaxation in water. In 1968, Jackson and Langham introduced NMR in alive animal. In 1973, Lauterbur introduced the primary MRI. The first fully body MRI machine was constructed by Mallard in 1970s. In 1980, the first 1.5T machine was introduced. The renaissance in digital imaging was brought about by the adoption of a Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS)-PACS offer electronic storing, retrieval, circulation, and demonstration of images.[20],[21] Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine is a standard protocol used to connect the machines, storage devices, workstation, and other hardware tools with many operators. It was introduced in the 1980s by American college of Radiology. Radiotherapy is one of the radiology specialties that uses radiation to treat the malignant conditions. It was started with the discovery of X-rays in 1895. In 1896, Grubbe introduced the X-rays to manage cancer. In the 1920s, 200–500 KV X-rays machine were introduced to manage cancer. The first megavoltage machine used was in 1937 by Batholomew.[22]

Medical imaging has long pathways from its discovery until now. Most of investigative operations have substituted by noninvasive cross-sectional imaging modalities. Medical imaging can give informative data at cellular and molecular levels, which is necessary for treatment of certain conditions such lung cancer. Some imaging modalities can give functional information such as MRI and PET. Nowadays, many drugs (contrast media) can target and trace certain tissue, which can be beneficial in both detection and management. Many scientists work to develop new technologies, which help in identification of microscopic changes in cellular activities. Using medical imaging, different disorders could be detected easily and effectively prior to becoming irredeemable.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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