May 31, 2012
Diagnosing broken bones, detecting cancer and diverticulitis, and evaluating human medical conditions are probably the most commonly known applications of CT scans, X-rays, MRI, and other medical imaging systems. But medical imaging equipment is also utilized in fields outside of healthcare, such as forensics, art history, archaeology, and the military.
A study conducted by National Geographic defended the position that King Tutankhamun was not violently murdered as was rumored to be the case. With the use of a mobile CT scanner parked adjacent to the tomb, the mummy was examined in fine detail as approximately 1,700 images were obtained in order to create a three-dimensional study for comprehensive evaluation.
Experts in the area of forensics often use skeletal radiology, the study of bones through X-rays, to obtain identifying characteristics of possible victims. X-rays and other medical images are commonly used as evidence in criminal cases and are used extensively within autopsies performed by medical examiners. It is interesting that only a few short months after Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays back in 1895, he was able to use them to find evidence of a bullet found within a lower extremity. This data was presented in court, leading to a prosecution of the accused for attempted murder. As suggested by VIFM, law enforcement often has to turn to medical imaging to aid in child abuse cases, for body identification, and when working with the DEA to locate drugs that may be hidden in body cavities or ingested.
Various types of X-rays are used to detect art forgery and to evaluate pigment fading on some paintings, such as Van Gogh’s “Fourteen Sunflowers” and “The Yellow House.” Experts incorporate Synchroton X-ray equipment to study oxidation reduction of the paint. X-rays have also been used for several years to evaluate the layers of paint to find pre-existing artwork underneath surface paintings as well as to discover if a masterpiece has been repaired or altered.
Of course, one would expect to find medical imaging apparatuses used in the military to X-ray the wounded; however, backscatter X-ray are also used to examine the interiors of vehicles coming and going through military checkpoints. In addition, the Department of Defense has been using X-ray technology to inspect aircraft components, nuclear weapons, and the quality of welds in industrial products used throughout military operations. The Lawrence Liverpool National Laboratory has performed extensive research in the use of high-energy neutron X-rays in imaging nuclear warheads for the purpose of evaluating the integrity of nuclear weapons. It’ll be interesting to see what other untraditional applications traditional imaging can be used in.