The first to be reviewed is the Medical sonography (ultrasonography) is an ultrasound-based diagnostic medical imaging technique used to visualize muscles, tendons, and many internal organs, their size, structure and any pathological lesions with real time tomographic images. It is also used to visualize a fetus during routine and emergency prenatal care. Here at the Hospital ultrasound scans are performed by a Radiologist who is a medical doctor with an specialization in radiology.
Ultrasound has been used to image the human body for at least 50 years. It is one of the most widely used diagnostic tools in modern medicine. The technology is relatively inexpensive and portable, especially when compared with modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). As currently applied in the medical environment, ultrasound poses no known risks to the patient. Sonography is generally described as a "safe test" because it does not use ionizing radiation, which imposes hazards, such as cancer production and chromosome breakage. However, ultrasonic energy has two potential physiological effects: it enhances inflammatory response; and it can heat soft tissue. Ultrasound energy produces a mechanical pressure wave through soft tissue. This pressure wave may cause microscopic bubbles in living tissues, and distortion of the cell membrane, influencing ion fluxes and intracellular activity. When ultrasound enters the body, it causes molecular friction and heats the tissues slightly. This explains why measurement of solid cancer tumors is difficult. This effect is very minor as normal tissue perfusion dissipates heat. With high intensity, it can also cause small pockets of gas in body fluids or tissues to expand and contract/collapse in a phenomenon called cavitation (this is not known to occur at diagnostic power levels used by modern diagnostic ultrasound units).
Ultrasound produces heating, pressure changes and mechanical disturbances in tissue.
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).Computed tomography was originally known as the "EMI scan" as it was developed at a research branch of EMI, a company best known today for its music and recording business. It was later known as computed axial tomography (CAT or CT scan) and body section röntgenography. CT produces a volume of data which can be manipulated, through a process known as windowing, in order to demonstrate various structures based on their ability to block the X-ray/Röntgen beam. Although historically the images generated were in the axial or transverse plane (orthogonal to the long axis of the body), modern scanners allow this volume of data to be reformatted in various planes or even as volumetric (3D) representations of structures.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 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 does computed tomography (CT), 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 reconstruct an image of the body.
MRI is a relatively new technology, which has been in widespread use for less than 20 years (compared with over 100 years for X-rays). The first MR Image was published in 1973 and the first study performed on a human took place on July 3, 1977.
When a person lies in a scanner, the hydrogen nuclei found in abundance in the human body in water molecules, align with the strong main magnetic field. A second electromagnetic field, which oscillates at radiofrequencies and is perpendicular to the main field, is then pulsed to push a proportion of the protons out of alignment with the main field. These protons then drift back into alignment with the main field, emitting a detectable radiofrequency signal as they do so. Since protons in different tissues of the body (e.g., fat vs. muscle) realign at different speeds, the different structures of the body can be revealed.
Contrast agents may be injected intravenously to enhance the appearance of blood vessels, tumors or inflammation. Unlike CT scanning MRI uses no ionizing radiation and is generally a very safe procedure. Patients with some metal implants and cardiac pacemakers are prevented from having an MRI scan due to effects of the strong magnetic field and powerful radiofrequency pulses.
MRI is used to image every part of the body, but is particularly useful in neurological conditions, disorders of the muscles and joints, for evaluating tumors and showing abnormalities in the heart and blood vessels.
For purposes of tumor detection and identification in the brain, MRI is generally superior. However, in the case of solid tumors of the abdomen and chest, CT is often preferred due to less motion artifact. Furthermore, CT usually is more widely available, faster, much less expensive, and may be less likely to require the person to be sedated or anesthetized.
MRI is also best suited for cases when a patient is to undergo the exam several times successively in the short term, because, unlike CT, it does not expose the patient to the hazards of ionizing radiation.
MRI versus CT
A computed tomography (CT) scanner uses X-rays, a type of ionizing radiation, to acquire its images, making it a good tool for examining tissue composed of elements of a higher atomic number than the tissue surrounding them, such as bone and calcifications (calcium based) within the body (carbon based flesh), or of structures (vessels, bowel). MRI, on the other hand, uses non-ionizing radio frequency (RF) signals to acquire its images and is best suited for non-calcified tissue, though MR images can also be acquired from bones and teeth as well as fossils.
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a nuclear medicine imaging technique which produces a three-dimensional image or map of functional processes in the body. The system detects pairs of gamma rays emitted indirectly by a positron-emitting radionuclide (tracer), which is introduced into the body on a biologically active molecule. Images of tracer concentration in 3-dimensional space within the body are then reconstructed by computer analysis. In modern scanners, this reconstruction is often accomplished with the aid of a CT X-ray scan performed on the patient during the same session, in the same machine.
If the biologically active molecule chosen for PET is FDG, an analogue of glucose, the concentrations of tracer imaged then give tissue metabolic activity, in terms of regional glucose uptake. Although use of this tracer results in the most common type of PET scan, other tracer molecules are used in PET to image the tissue concentration of many other types of molecules of interest.
To conduct the scan, a short-lived radioactive tracer isotope, which decays by emitting a positron, which also has been chemically incorporated into a biologically active molecule, is injected into the living subject (usually into blood circulation). There is a waiting period while the active molecule becomes concentrated in tissues of interest; then the research subject or patient is placed in the imaging scanner. The molecule most commonly used for this purpose is fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), a sugar, for which the waiting period is typically an hour.
As the radioisotope undergoes positron emission decay (also known as positive beta decay), it emits a positron, the antimatter counterpart of an electron. After travelling up to a few millimeters the positron encounters and annihilates with an electron, producing a pair of annihilation (gamma) photons moving in opposite directions. These are detected when they reach a scintillator material in the scanning device, creating a burst of light which is detected by photomultiplier tubes or silicon avalanche photodiodes (Si APD). The technique depends on simultaneous or coincident detection of the pair of photons; photons which do not arrive in pairs (i.e., within a few nanoseconds) are ignored.
PET scans are increasingly read alongside CT or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, the combination ("co-registration") giving both anatomic and metabolic information (i.e., what the structure is, and what it is doing biochemically). Because PET imaging is most useful in combination with anatomical imaging, such as CT, modern PET scanners are now available with integrated high-end multi-detector-row CT scanners. Because the two scans can be performed in immediate sequence during the same session, with the patient not changing position between the two types of scans, the two sets of images are more-precisely registered, so that areas of abnormality on the PET imaging can be more perfectly correlated with anatomy on the CT images. This is very useful in showing detailed views of moving organs or structures with higher amounts of anatomical variation, such as are more likely to occur outside the brain.
The minimization of radiation dose to the subject is an attractive feature of the use of short-lived radionuclides. Besides its established role as a diagnostic technique, PET has an expanding role as a method to assess the response to therapy, in particular, cancer therapy, where the risk to the patient from lack of knowledge about disease progress is much greater than the risk from the test radiation.
Limitations to the widespread use of PET arise from the high costs of cyclotrons needed to produce the short-lived radionuclides for PET scanning and the need for specially adapted on-site chemical synthesis apparatus to produce the radiopharmaceuticals.
Summarizing, the four tests provide useful information, but when it comes to rely on exact tumor measurement one must always be careful, measuring and comparing from previous tests may not always provide the actual size. In general if the lesion remains with the same measurements the treatment is being effective. When the tumor measurements are fifty percent larger than the previous the treatment is not being effective and this call for a change in the drug combination or do another procedure.