X-ray Vision

Now that the Nobel Prizes have been announced, and a real musician finally got his due – who needs a Grammy anyway – it’s a good time to continue our discussion of medical miracles with something that happens every day in your NYC podiatry office: the roentgenogram, or as we all know it today, the X-ray. Because not only was the first Nobel prize in physics awarded in 1901 for this discovery, it’s also a critical, if underappreciated tool in modern medicine. And it’s mad cool, to quote the hip kids of today!

It seems so simple and pedestrian, and maybe now it is. Back in 1895 when Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the presence of an invisible undetectable energy wave that when projected through flesh onto a chemical panel produced an image of his wife’s hand it was miraculous, and in many ways remains so. Since that time the technology evolved dramatically, to higher resolution film, then digital images, and has also spawned tangential technologies such as fluoroscopy, or live X-ray (got that in the office), ultrasound (got that one too), computed tomography (nope), and magnetic resonance imaging (uh, little big for Manhattan space constraints). The ability to see inside the body in near perfect resolution, in multiple plains of vision, without invading tissue has completely changed the practice of medicine. Every day doctors are able to detect fractures, tears, growths, ruptures and even see developing fetuses in real time while leaving the surrounding tissue intact. I won’t attempt to explain the physics of radiography, partly because, mea culpa, I don’t fully understand it, and partly because it’s terribly boring, but suffice to say that what was Nobel Prize winning science 115 years ago is now basic college physics. And as we discussed in this most thrilling and densely packed with knowledge blog a few weeks ago about antibiotics, X-rays may be overused at times, and no system is perfect, but in my humble NYC podiatry opinion, this ranks as one of the great medical discoveries of all time. We live in an age of miracles, and they are readily available often a train ride away.

So next time you are looking at your bones on a computer monitor, a moving joint in real time on a screen, or a real time image of a live bone on an old TV screen, take a moment to appreciate the miracle that hath been wrought in the humble confines of a lowly NYC podiatry office. And here’s hoping all your images are healthy ones.

See you (inside and out) in the office.

Ernest Isaacson