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Advancements in Radiology and Imaging

Published on December 13, 2012

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Are x-rays bad for our health? Should a pregnant woman undergo imaging? Learn the answers to these and other common questions about radiology. Dr. William Shuman, Director of Radiology at UW Medical Center, and Gene Hoefling, Administrative Director at UW Medical Center of Radiology, discuss how the advancements in radiology and imaging have improved medical care by decreasing riskier procedures, including exploratory surgery. Hear how UW Medicine continues to lead the way, advancing technology and the field.

Produced in association with UW Medicine
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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of UW Medicine, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

With the latest in radiology they can increasingly see in an amazing way inside our bodies.  How do they keep it advancing, and how do they keep it safe?  It’s all next on Patient Power. 

Hello and welcome to Patient Power sponsored by UW Medicine.  I’m Andrew Schorr. 

Well, all of us are patients at one time or another, and you probably have an x-ray, some people have CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds.  Well, is it advancing in its ability to see what’s going on inside our body?  The short answer is yes, and is it kept safe because after all in some of those modalities it’s radiation? 

Well, the University of Washington is a leader in the field, both in advancing radiology and in making it increasingly safe for all of us, and to join us and help explain all this are two guests, and that is the administrative director for radiology at the University of Washington, Seattle, Gene Hoefling, and also joining us is Dr. William Shuman.  He is vice-chairman of the department of radiology at the University of Washington.  He’s the medical director for radiology at the UW Medical Center.  Thank you for joining us. 

Let’s begin with Dr. Shuman.  Dr. Shuman, am I right, your ability to see inside the body is getting very advanced? 

Dr. Shuman:

Well, yes, and that’s probably been most dramatically illustrated by the technical advances in CT scanning over the past couple of years.  Our scanners now don’t merely look at the density of body tissues but also the chemical composition of those body tissues, and that helps us understand pathology and disease processes much better.  We’re getting a better look with more information out of the same process of CT scanning. 

And the same is true of MR scanning.  We’re now looking not merely at the anatomy of the body but also the function, we’re looking at muscle function and brain function and cardiovascular function.  And this is really a major new advance in the ability to detect disease and the impact of disease on bodily functions. 

Andrew Schorr:

I always think back to Star Trek where they could wave sort of a magic wand over you and make believe to see inside the body, but your ability to see inside the body is really getting phenomenal, isn’t it? 

Dr. Shuman:

It is.  And we’re actually approaching the capacity of the tricorder that we saw in Star Trek.  The machine isn’t that small yet, but it really can do almost all the things that Spock did in the way of diagnosing disease.  Now, he had some remarkable therapies, too, and our therapeutic abilities in the field of medicine have advanced tremendously in the last five years.  We’re not quite to Spock with therapy yet, but our diagnostic capabilities are getting awfully close. 

Andrew Schorr:

And the whole idea is to be able to see what’s going on inside the body, where years ago surgeons had to go cut you open and look inside, right? 

Dr. Shuman:

Yes, and we used to use the term “exploratory surgery” because they didn’t know what was happening, they would go inside and explore around and look for problems.  But the use of exploratory surgery in the last 15 years has declined by over 95 percent, and I think even surgeons are happy about that too because doing exploratory surgery and not finding anything is not a rewarding experience for either the patient or the surgeon.

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