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What is a Medical Diagnostic Machine?

A medical diagnostic machine is a mechanical device that helps doctors diagnose illnesses and other medical problems. The familiar x-ray machine is an example. An x-ray machine allows doctors to see broken bones and evidence of illnesses such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and lung cancer. More advanced diagnostic machines perform imaging tests such as the computerized tomography scanner (CT) scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They are invaluable diagnostic tools because they are capable of detecting diseases and other medical conditions that could not have been found in the past without them.

The CT scanner is a diagnostic machine that goes beyond an ordinary two-dimensional x-ray to show cross sections of bone or soft tissue from many different angles. A CT scan allows doctors to locate infections, blood clots and tumors that do not show up on x-rays. Routinely used to examine victims of automobile accidents, the CT scan can reveal internal injuries and bleeding that might otherwise go undetected. The use of contrast dye injected into veins allows doctors to see blockages and other problems in blood vessels throughout the body including such complex areas as the brain.

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A PET scan, which allows doctors to see how internal organs and tissues are functioning, is the product of a complex diagnostic machine. Radioactive material injected into a patient’s vein can be tracked and observed during scans that measure such important bodily functions as circulation, glucose metabolism and oxygen use. In 2010, PET scans were commonly used to diagnose cancer, coronary artery disease, heart damage, central nervous system disorders and brain disorders such as tumors, seizures and memory functions.

Another useful diagnostic machine is the one that performs magnetic resonance imaging. Frequently used as an adjunct to x-rays and other imaging tests, MRIs can locate tumors, bleeding, blood vessel abnormalities and nerve damage such as that caused by a stroke. The MRI machine operates differently from other diagnostic machines by using a magnetic field and pulses of radio waves to create pictures of internal organs and bony structures. Results may reveal problems not visible through other imaging techniques. Injected contrast material highlights abnormalities more clearly.

The original MRI diagnostic machine was a tunnel-like enclosure that some people found uncomfortably close and confining. Some individuals experienced such anxiety and panic during MRI procedures that tests had to be stopped. Because MRI tests may be crucial to obtaining a proper diagnosis, open MRI machines were designed to accommodate claustrophobic patients and those who are significantly overweight. Unfortunately, not all facilities offer open machines, and open machines cannot do some types of MRI scans.

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