Today we celebrate the International Day of Radiology (IDoR), but medical imaging makes a world of difference every day. Nowhere has this impact been greater than in the care of children.
Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015 marks the 120th anniversary of the discovery of the X-ray by German physicist, Wilhelm C. Roentgen. His discovery helped revolutionize medicine and save countless lives. This year’s focus on pediatric imaging demonstrates the important role that radiology plays in the detection, diagnosis, and management of the wide variety of conditions affecting children, and the special treatment younger patients need.
Consider how different medical care would be today for your child without imaging:
Imagine if… there were no X-rays to evaluate for a broken bone.
- Diagnoses and treatment would largely be a painful process of guess-and-check and trial-and-error. A follow-up appointment might consist of a bone setter measuring the length of the injured appendage, like a leg, against its healthy counterpart. If both legs were the same length, the procedure would be considered a success. If left untreated, an infection and a subsequent amputation would be likely.
Imagine if… there was no ultrasound to find that inflamed appendix.
- A parent of a child complaining of a belly-ache may not know the cause of all their son or daughter’s “belly-aching” until it was too late. While the exact cause of appendicitis can be unclear, a radiologist can detect inflammation before a rupture occurs. If the appendix does burst, the situation can become life threatening within just days without treatment.
Imagine if… there was no CT scan to look for bleeding after a head injury.
- It’s hard to stop something from bleeding if you can’t see it beneath the skin, muscle or bone. A CT scan after a traumatic brain injury detects bleeding in the brain or area of swelling. Bleeding increases pressure within the skull, but symptoms may not develop right away. The scan gives immediate results, the procedure is quick and it is usually done without sedation.
Imagine if… there was no MRI to assess the amount of inflammation in bowel disease.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can affect all or part of the digestive system, but symptoms often present the same way for patients regardless of the location. Successful treatment depends on our ability to find the inflammation and determine how much is there. Without imaging like MR enterography, which gently uses magnetic fields to take pictures, the only way to find the answers to these questions is to (not-so-gently, by comparison) go inside the bowels through the mouth, anus or an incision.
Imagine if… there was no image-guided biopsy to diagnose tumors.
- A biopsy is when doctors use a needle to remove a small portion of tissue from the area being treated, like a tumor, for testing and diagnosis in the lab. Not only is this a scary procedure for kids and teens, but it also comes with risks to the patient and can be expensive. Imaging allows doctors to work safely, quickly and more efficiently, eliminating any unnecessary poking or prodding. This technique, in particular, is making a huge difference in the lives of our patients with cancer (learn more).
Because of the discoveries and advances in imaging, and the dedication of people who use the technology in pediatric medicine, children get more accurate and timely diagnoses and no longer have to undergo scary, more invasive procedures or surgery. Better diagnoses leads to better care and healthier children, which is truly something to celebrate.
So please know that our radiologists, technologist, medical physicists, research scientists, and administrators and staff are working hard to make a positive impact on health care for your child and family. If you see one of these people today, or any time during National Radiologic Technology Week (recognized Nov. 8–14, 2015), be sure to wish him or her a Happy IDoR!