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Look inside medical imaging - finding out what’s happening inside is a critical part of diagnosing disease and injury. New and evolving medical imaging technologies show us fascinating perspectives inside the human body.

This resource provides explanations of the key concepts encountered when exploring medical imaging – the ‘basics’ that every student should understand.

CT (computer-aided tomography)

Using X-rays to produce a focused image of specific structures within the body, while blurring details of other structures.

Disease

An unhealthy condition of the body or of a part of the body.

EEG (electro-encephalography)

The process of recording the electrical activity of the brain.

Elasticity

The ability of a solid to return to its original shape or form after it has been stretched or compressed.

Electromagnetic spectrum

The complete range of electromagnetic radiation from the shortest waves (gamma rays) to the longest (radio waves).

Ionising radiation

Radiation that has enough energy to shift electrons out of atoms and so produce ions. This can cause damage to biological organisms like humans and can instigate DNA to mutate.

Mammography

An examination of a breast that uses low dose X-rays.

Medical imaging

Any technique (e.g. CT, EEG, MRI, ultrasound, X-ray) that uses the properties of living cells or tissues as a means for reflecting waves back to a visual detector for medical examination.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

The use of a very strong magnetic field to line up the spin of hydrogen atoms. When radio waves (non-ionising radiation) are sent into the body in this magnetic field, they reflect off the hydrogen atoms and can be converted into an image of the tissues.

Non-invasive

The technique used does not require the patient's body to be opened up by incision, or any samples taken.

Tumour

Abnormal growth of tissue, usually out of control.

Ultrasound

An imaging technique that reflects high-frequency sound waves off internal body parts to create images.

Wavelength

The distance between peaks or crests of a waves of light, heat, or other energy and the next peak or crest.

X-ray

A photographic image produced using high frequency electromagnetic radiation to show internal parts of the body.

    Published 24 June 2007