X-rays allow physicians and technologist to view patients' bones and surrounding tissue. Since 1919, portable x-ray machines have allowed physicians to get the same pictures without having to move the patient. This technology is used in hospitals and even on the battlefield for quick diagnosis.
The x-ray machine was invented by Willhelm Conrad Roentgen of Germany in 1895. He titled his discovery x-radiation, where x stood for the unknown. In 1919, American Frederick Jones invented the first portable x-ray machine. Jones was a mechanical engineer and inventor who focused mostly on coolant systems; he created more than 60 inventions over his lifetime. He created the machine after he overheard a doctor wish that he could move his x-ray machine. Since Jones did not file for a patent on his machine, many other inventors soon patented similar pieces of technology.
After their original invention in 1919, experts from around the world created their own version of the portable x-ray machine. These inventions were quickly put to use by French Noble Prize-winning physicist Marie Curie. She used her own money to put portable x-ray machines into World War I ambulances used on the front lines. More recently, portable x-rays have been used by the military to search for bombs and other explosive devices.
The main function of portable x-rays is to look at bones and the areas surrounding them. X-rays are able to pass through the body easily. As radiation passes through the body, different parts absorb different amount of the radiation. Fat, muscle and other soft tissue allow the x-rays to pass through with very little absorption, while dense bones absorb the radiation. Images are recorded when the x-rays hit the metal plate on the other side of the body. Places where radiation was absorbed appear white, while untouched areas appear gray and black. This image allows a physician or technologist to see any abnormalities in the bone or surrounding tissue. This can be especially useful in establishing if a bone is broken, deciding if a break is healing properly, discovering fluid build-up around joints and locating foreign objects in the body.
Both forms of x-ray machines provide a painless and simple way for physicians to look at bones in a relatively inexpensive, quick way.
As with all medical procedures, x-ray machine pose some risks: a slight risk of cancer from exposure to radiation. This risk is very small, since the amount of radiation an individual is exposed to is small in comparison to the amount of radiation one is exposed to annually from the sun and radioactive isotopes found in soil. Pregnant women should inform their doctor or the x-ray technician as radiation can cause illness or complications on the fetus. The use of portable x-rays tends to produce a slightly lower-quality picture than x-rays done with a normal machine, though this is changing as new advances in portable x-ray technology are made.
- Photo Credit Clarita, MorgueFIles
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