Medical imaging is an area that is continuing to develop and grow in healthcare. As computer technology continues to improve, the speed and quality of medical images also improves. One recent example is when researchers became excited about the possible uses of imaging chips created for Sony's Playstation 3 in improving medical imaging.

Medical imaging has transformed healthcare. If you look up any major disease, some form of medical imaging will be involved in the diagnosis or treatment of that disease. Not only can diseases be diagnosed earlier (for example, by using new technology like SIAscopyTM), it gives more treatment options, and imaging techniques are also being used to see if treatment is working successfully. In some cases, medical imaging is being used to administer treatment.

Cost issues

A disadvantage of medical imaging equipment is its high price, but the techniques employed can replace expensive or painful surgical procedures. One example is where patients with brain tumours previously had to endure a painful procedure where air was injected into their skulls and then they were rotated upside down. Now, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans are used to detect brain tumours.

Also, because imaging is generally non-invasive, patients do not need to stay in hospital as they would after surgery, which also saves money. Sometimes, however, these cost savings are hard to quantify because hospitals are often split into sections with their own budgets.

One way to get around the high cost of medical imaging equipment is to have mobile units that can be driven around, allowing equipment to be shared between hospitals. This becomes a possibility as the size of the equipment shrinks.

Healthcare frequently relies on the early detection of disease to employ cheaper and less drastic methods of therapy. To do this, screening tests need to be used that are low cost and easy to perform. For example, at the moment mammography is the main imaging procedure used to detect breast cancer, but the use of digital cameras to image the surface motion of breasts being explored by Dr Eli Van Houten’s team will be a very cheap and easy way to screen for breast cancer.

Data issues

Medical imaging can provide a great deal of data – while this is an advantage, doctors and specialists must be able to understand the data, and it also has to be stored in a way that is useful for the patient and the doctor to retrieve.

Useful links

Using gaming technology to save lives with medical imaging.


    Published 23 July 2007