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How one scan transformed diagnostic radiography

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EXPERT VOICE: Jamie Beck, Assistant Professor at the University of Bradford and qualified radiographer since 2000, explains how far CT scanning has come in 50 years.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary since the first computed tomography (CT) scan of the head was undertaken. Under the direction of Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, the team from London was behind arguably the most significant development in the entire history of medicine. Since X-rays had been discovered in 1895, imaging of the body had chiefly been in two dimensions. The CT scan opened up the possibility of three-dimensional scanning.

The benefits of CT scanning for patients have been stark. CT plays a pivotal role in the management of many life-threatening illnesses and conditions. From the patient with lung cancer to those who have been involved in major trauma, CT scanning is now crucial to their diagnosis and long-term prognosis. 

However, CT scanning is not the only technological development that has occurred. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, sonography, radionuclide imaging and mammography, in addition to the still vital but longer established X-ray services have been hugely significant for patients. Concurrently, that impact has also been hugely significant for the profession of diagnostic radiography.

Since the merger of the Bradford and Airedale College of Health into the University of Bradford in 1995, diagnostic radiography has become an important part of the University’s portfolio. Our course has an international reputation in terms of producing high quality graduates that meet the demands of today’s healthcare. As technology in clinical practice has advanced, the University must also move with the times to ensure that reputation is maintained. In response to the developments of CT and MRI plus the move to see greater involvement of diagnostic radiographers in image interpretation, the University created and still delivers postgraduate courses that are attended by students from across the country.

Recent months has also seen significant investment in facilities to support our undergraduate and postgraduate students. A new suite of high-quality monitors to replicate hospital experience, virtual reality headsets, X-ray simulation software and a fully functioning digital radiography x-ray room are now in position to give University of Bradford students the most technologically sound experience possible. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, universities across the globe have had to reflect on their education provision in meeting the needs of students in these challenging times. By investing heavily in our own technology, the student experience at Bradford can now be regarded as one of the most advanced in the country.

Whilst the technological developments have impacted upon the profession and the University, the importance of patient care remains fundamental to our identity. By using our established patient and public involvement group of service users and carers in addition to vital experience in clinical practice, the diagnostic radiography students experience that blend of technology and caring which is so fundamental for good practice.

Diagnostic radiography represents the backbone of modern healthcare services. For those services to meet the needs of patients, a workforce of highly competent and adaptable diagnostic radiographers is needed. Recent media exposure has highlighted the issues around ensure imaging equipment is state of the art. However, that equipment is obsolete without the diagnostic radiographers operating it. The University of Bradford continues to support the NHS and wider healthcare by producing graduates that are in tune with the ever-advancing technological side of the profession whilst not forgetting the need for high quality patient care.

Expert Voice by Jamie Beck

Monday 8 November 2021 is World Radiography Day, the date marks the anniversary of the discovery of x-radiation by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895. 

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