Medical imaging refers to the techniques and processes used to create images of the human body (or parts thereof) for clinical purposes (medical procedures seeking to reveal, diagnose or examine disease) or medical science (including the study of normal anatomy and physiology).
As a discipline and in its widest sense, it is part of biological imaging and incorporates radiology (in the wider sense), radiological sciences, endoscopy, (medical) thermography, medical photography and microscopy (e.g. for human pathological investigations).
Measurement and recording techniques which are not primarily designed to produce images, such as electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) and others, but which produce data susceptible to be represented as maps (i.e. containing positional information), can be seen as forms of medical imaging.
The electron microscope is a microscope that can magnify very small details with high resolving power due to the use of electrons as the source of illumination, magnifying at levels up to 2,000,000 times.
Electron microscopy is employed in anatomic pathology to identify organelles within the cells. Its usefulness has been greatly reduced by immunhistochemistry but it is still irreplaceable for the diagnosis of kidney disease, identification of immotile cilia syndrome and many other tasks
Radiography is the use of ionizing electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays to view objects. Although not technically radiographic techniques, imaging modalities such as PET and MRI are sometimes grouped in radiography due to the fact that the radiology department of hospitals handle all forms of imaging. Treatment using radiation is known as radiotherapy.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI), is primarily a medical imaging technique most commonly used in radiology to visualize the structure and function of the body. It provides detailed images of the body in any plane. MRI provides much greater contrast between the different soft tissues of the body than computed tomography (CT) does, making it especially useful in neurological (brain), musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and oncological (cancer) imaging. Unlike CT, it uses no ionizing radiation, but uses a powerful magnetic field to align the nuclear magnetization of (usually) hydrogen atoms in water in the body. Radiofrequency fields are used to systematically alter the alignment of this magnetization, causing the hydrogen nuclei to produce a rotating magnetic field detectable by the scanner. This signal can be manipulated by additional magnetic fields to build up enough information to construct an image of the body.
MRI is a relatively new technology, which has been in use for little more than 30 years (compared with over 110 years for X-ray radiography). The first MR Image was published in 1973 and the first study performed on a human took place on July 3, 1977.
Nuclear medicine is a branch of medicine and medical imaging that uses the nuclear properties of matter in diagnosis and therapy. More specifically, nuclear medicine is a part of molecular imaging because it produces images that reflect biological processes that take place at the cellular and subcellular level.
Photoacoustic imaging is a recently developed hybrid biomedical imaging modality based on the photoacoustic effect. It combines the advantages of optical absorption contrast with ultrasonic spatial resolution for deep imaging in (optical) diffusive or quasi-diffusive regime. Recent studies have shown that photoacoustic imaging can be used in vivo for tumor angiogenesis monitoring, blood oxygenation mapping, functional brain imaging, and skin melanoma detection etc.
Computed tomography (CT) is a medical imaging method employing tomography. Digital geometry processing is used to generate a three-dimensional image of the inside of an object from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken around a single axis of rotation. The word "tomography" is derived from the Greek tomos (slice) and graphein (to write).
Diagnostic sonography (ultrasonography) is an ultrasound-based diagnostic imaging technique used to visualize subcutaneous body structures including tendons, muscles, joints, vessels and internal organs for possible pathology or lesions. Obstetric sonography is commonly used during pregnancy and is widely recognized by the public. There are a plethora of diagnostic and therapeutic applications practiced in medicine.
Recently, techniques have been developed to enable CT, MRI and ultrasound scanning software to produce 3D images for the physician. Traditionally CT and MRI scans produced 2D static output on film. To produce 3D images, many scans are made, then combined by computers to produce a 3D model, which can then be manipulated by the physician. 3D ultrasounds are produced using a somewhat similar technique.
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