The number of innovations occurring in the field of healthcare is impressive. It is impossible to stay on top of them. I look forward to an email newsletter from medicalautomation.org every week for a good summary of the latest and greatest. One area of innovation is happening with x-rays – a technology that hasn’t changed much for decades. The current technology is fine when taking a look at your knee or shoulder, but when the internal organs need to be examined, a patient needs to swallow a contrast agent like iodine or barium that will bind to a tumor or other structure. The problem is that these agents can be hard on the kidneys and in some cases result in mortality. CT scans are much overused and potentially dangerous when multiple scans accumulate their effect.
A new technique called x-ray phase-contrast imaging (XPCI) works by measuring the change in an x-rays phase. X-rays move more slowly when they pass through muscle mass than through blood. For example, as an x-ray passes through your lungs, which is mostly air and blood vessels, the wave will arrive sooner than a wave that passes through the heart. As a result, the new technique can be used by specialists to examine internal organs, tumors, and many other things. PCI involves no toxic agent agents and works with a substantially lower dosage then CT scans.
MedicalAutomation.org said that hardly a day passes without news of another smartphone device, app, or cloud information integrator for health monitoring. I have previously written about iPhone apps to perform an EKG and another for a parent to detect a child’s ear infection. A new iPhone app developed at Cornell University called the “smart CARD” includes an adapter that fits over the iPhone’s camera. You place a drop of blood on a strip, place the strip in the adapter, and in less than a minute, the app performs a color metric analysis and determines your total cholesterol level. The new app is not yet commercially available but, when it is, it will probably include the differentiation between “good” and “bad” lipids, just like the labs do. The iPhone has the power of early supercomputers, and we can expect many more breakthroughs ahead.