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X-rays, effective but not harmless

  1. Contemporary techniques such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and PET scans visualize everything in such detail that the body apparently no longer holds any secrets from us. X-rays are an integral part of medical science nowadays. And so are many other scientific areas of interest such as space exploration, radioactivity research or even archeology. And a positive thing is that X-ray equipment can now use considerably less radiation. This not only benefits the patient but also the personnel exposed to this radiation on a daily basis.

X-rays or X-rays?

  1. In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923) discovered the X-rays named after him more or less by accident at the University of Würzburg. His discovery was an effective but not harmless tool for medical diagnostics. To be able to screen a body with the help of X-rays, without having to cut it open. That was a major medical breakthrough. But it was not known for a long time that the ionizing radiation could also damage the organism. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen explicitly did not want his discovery to be named after him. He himself described the rays he discovered as "X-rays". In Dutch, however, the term X-rays is fully established, while in English one speaks of "X-rays".

The first X-ray in the Netherlands

  1. The first X-ray in the Netherlands dates from 1896 and was taken in Maastricht. As an experiment, the hand of a 21-year-old lady was exposed to X-rays for an hour and a half. The experiment was conducted by a physics teacher and a surgeon from Calvary Hospital. This happened only a few weeks after Conrad Röntgen announced his invention to our eastern neighbors. The risks of radiation were not yet known. And that while the doses were immensely high.

X-ray technology caused many victims in the early days

  1. In those early days, X-rays caused many victims, both among doctors and nursing staff. Usually people died from the effects of the radiation, but occasionally also from electrocution. Often the high voltage cables were simply open and exposed in the examination room. Fatal for the one who got too close to that.

Why X-rays are not without risk

  1. Every person is constantly exposed to radiation, both from below and from above. In Switzerland, for example, the natural radiation from Alpine granite is relatively high at five millisieverts per year. And the higher you are (in an airplane, for example), the higher the radiation dose. The problem with radiation is that it accumulates (accumulates) over the years.

Radiation exposure can mutate cells malignantly

  1. This is important to the extent that any radiation exposure has the potential to malignantly alter cells. Usually the body is able to repair the damage itself. But the higher the radiation dose, the less successful that will ultimately be:

Professor Van der Plaats, authority in the field of radiology

  1. Pioneer and authority in the field of radiology in the Netherlands was Professor Gerard van der Plaats. Together with Philips he was involved in the development of many new equipment. Van derplaats was strongly against the use of the so-called pedoscope. This was a screening device in many shoe stores, with which the customer could use X-rays to check whether his new shoes fit. The radiation dose to the feet was very high. After all, the X-ray tube hung right above it. The pedoscope was only banned in the 1950s.

New X-ray technology even makes tumors visible

  1. Researchers in Munich have developed a revolutionary X-ray technology that can even make tumors in organs visible. Such structures have hitherto remained hidden from conventional X-ray equipment. As indicated above, X-rays can be used to look inside the body. The calcium in our bones absorbs X-rays much more strongly than the surrounding soft tissue. That is why our skeleton can be mapped particularly well with X-rays. Broken bones, for example, can be easily identified in this way.

MRI scan sometimes more effective than X-rays

  1. It is more difficult to image structures in soft tissue with normal X-ray equipment:

New X-ray technique can reveal soft tissues

  1. But scientists at the Technical University of Munich have developed a new X-ray technology. It can make soft tissues visible for the first time, tissue structures that have hitherto been hidden with X-rays.

Tumors are recognized earlier

  1. All in all, the new technology allows for greatly improved soft tissue contrast, so that tumors are recognized earlier. In fact, the new technique is so clear that even white from brown adipose tissue can be distinguished in the X-ray image.

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