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X-Ray Technology: The Past, Present, and Future

May 14, 2018


X-rays must have been amazing to the first people who saw them. With photography still being relatively new, and moving pictures having just been developed, the chance to utilize a new type of technology to see within a living human must have been as fascinating then as it is commonplace now. While it took a while for X-ray's medical applications to be known, today, X-rays and similar imaging techniques are the most valuable tools doctors have for diagnosing patients. The next time you have an appointment for diagnostic imaging in Suffolk County, NY, here are some facts to consider regarding the history and future of X-ray technology.

The Birth of X-Rays

In 1885, University of Würzburg physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was studying electron beams within a gas discharge tube. Upon turning on the tube, he noticed a nearby fluorescent screen would glow. Realizing this meant that the rays within the tube were able to penetrate some types of solid matter, he put his hand between the tube and screen, and saw that his bones were projected onto the screen. He would publish a paper called "On a New Kind of Rays" where he included images of his wife's hand, a compass, a weight, and some pieces of metal. And with that, X-ray imaging was born.

Popular Imagination

Very quickly, the use of X-rays captured the public's fascination. People would pay to look at their skeletons at carnivals through a fluoroscope: a machine which could show live, moving X-ray images. Fluoroscopes were even used to draw women to shoe stores where they could see their foot bones within their new shoes. Of course, the practitioners of the time had no understanding yet of the dangers of un-shielded radiation, and X-ray exhibitions lost their appeal as those who were running the machines started to lose fingers and even their lives. Even Thomas Edison swore off ever tinkering with X-ray machines again after losing his assistant to cancer.


Medical Applications

Until X-rays came along, the only way to find a bullet or shrapnel in the human body was by the surgeon feeling around. Quickly, military doctors realized the life-saving potential X-rays had to offer. By the 1930s, with new understandings of how to protect patients and staff from their adverse effects, X-rays became an essential part of patient diagnostics. By the 1970s, X-rays began transitioning to digital imaging, saving time, money, and storage space.

X-Rays Today and in the Future

Today, X-rays are a safe and reliable means of treating injuries and diagnosing cancer and other illnesses. Their increased use in the developing world is saving lives across all of Africa and Asia. Also, in the last couple of years, digital X-ray imaging has been playing a greater role in aiding the diagnosis of pneumonia, an illness which kills over a million children under the age of five every year.

The X-ray's development from an entertainment tool of the 19th century to one of the safest and most reliable means of treating a patient is all a part of the medical advances that benefit all of us. It's due to the brave and brilliant actions of all the men and women who advanced X-rays' life-saving potential that you're able to take advantage of those benefits when you undergo advanced diagnostic imaging in Suffolk County, NY.