Having a scan with your head in a rubber hat

NHS

Dr Jim Stevenson, reflects on life as a radiologist in the 1970s.

 

Jim StevensonI started my radiological life in the mid seventies at St George’s Hospital. Part of the rotation programme involved some time at the Atkinson Morley Hospital where I came across the first generation scanner. There was an old dental chair on which a patient laid back with his head in a rubber hat in the scanner porthole. It took 8 slices. Each slice took 5 minutes using an old fashioned tomogram X-ray tube. The image details were processed by a very large computer. The resultant image was printed on a photograph. The image matrix was 80 by 80, an advance since the original 40 by 40. How Jamie Ambrose invented the reports I do not know but his detailed knowledge of brain anatomy was quite outstanding.

Once when walking past the scanner I saw a porter in a brown overall walking round the machine. Being concerned about security, I spoke to Jamie Ambrose. “Don’t worry about him,” he said, ‘”That’s only Godfrey“ (Hounsfield from EMI).

Significant advances in CT occurred about every 5 years. When the first body images appeared we all had to learn cross-sectional anatomy. Since 1945 all anatomy was taught in longitudinal section – sagittal and coronal. I showed an image to my father-in-law. He had no problem with it but he had qualified in 1940. Before the war, all medics had to learn cross-section anatomy! The very best cross-section anatomy book I found was Eycleshymer and Schoemaker published in America in 1911. Still much better than the modern ones of recent times. The only difficulty is that all the labels are in Latin which can make interpretation difficult!

Over the past fifty years medical technology advances have been and will continue to be outstanding. The need to make proper use of them hasn’t changed. Wet films, fluorescent imaging, U/S, MRI and digital are all contributing to our future.


About Dr Jim Stevenson

Dr James Duncan Stevenson BSc. MB.BS, FRCR trained at St.Thomas’ Hospital Medical School, London and four years later turned to radiology at St.George’s Hospital, London. In November 1980 he became a Consultant Radiologist at Royal Victoria Hospital, Bournemouth and Poole Hospital. He retired in August 2007.

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When MRI created excitement in the air

NHS

Dr Adrian Thomas shares his experience of working as a radiologist and how excited he was to see the EMI/CT scanner for the first time. 

 

adrian thomas

Dr Adrian Thomas

In my time as a radiologist I have seen the amazing growth and flowering of radiology. I entered medical school in 1972, which was the year that the CT/EMI scanner was announced by Godfrey Hounsfield and James Ambrose at the BIR Annual Congress; and I started radiology at Hammersmith Hospital in 1981, which coincided with the opening of their MRI scanner. I don’t think that either of these events were connected!

 

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X-ray Television at Farnborough Hospital in 1970

When I started medical school everything looked so advanced and exciting to my young eyes. As I look back now it all seems rather primitive. Computers were in their infancy, and imaging was almost all traditional. However, I liked the X-ray departments that I saw, and was taught by Peter Bretland at the Whittington Hospital, and by the great George Simon who was a pioneer chest radiologist. Both were inspirational teachers.

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Old X-ray cassette, pre-digital

The juniors today will find it difficult to understand how very different things were. As a junior doctor, practising emergency medicine or surgery with only minimal imaging was not easy. Many assumptions were made. So for example, an older person with left iliac fossa pain and fever was assumed to have acute diverticulitis. They were treated with intravenous fluids, antibiotics and a nasogastric tube; a barium enema was then arranged as an outpatient. Many exploratory laparotomies were performed for undiagnosed acute symptoms, and the surgeon had only a limited idea as to what would be found. We had plain films, contrast studies and nuclear medicine, but no CT and only limited access to ultrasound. I can remember patients who would have been managed entirely differently today with modern imaging. In particular, an accurate diagnosis made by CT or ultrasound may preclude the need for invasive surgery.

5 Store for conventional film packets

Store for conventional film packets. Large storage rooms were needed for storing X-ray film packets, with many filing clerks

I was a surgical houseman in 1978-9, and I recollect one particular patient that had done something that you should never do, that is to polish the floor  underneath a carpet. He had come downstairs, and had stepped onto the carpet. The carpet had slid forwards, and he fell backwards hitting himself hard on the occiput. He presented with a severe headache, but no neurological signs. His skull plain film X-ray showed no fracture, and I admitted him for neurological observations. After 24 hours he remained well, but still had his severe headache. The surgical team decided to keep him in  hospital for further observation. We kept him for well over a week, and he remained well although with a persistent headache. We then finally sent him home. I had a phone call some days later from another hospital. My patient had unfortunately died, and the other team wanted to know what we had been doing. I explained what had happened, and the voice on the ‘phone said that this was all very reasonable and we could not be criticised. Today the patient would have been scanned, a potentially treatable lesion could have been found, and this young man could be alive today.

3 Traditional cassette opened to show intensifying screens and film

Traditional cassette opened to show intensifying screens and film

I had first seen the EMI/CT scanner when my consultant took his firm of neurology students to see the new scanner at the National Hospital in Queen Square, where he had clinical sessions. I was fascinated by the images we saw, and the radiologist Ivan Moseley showed us the capability of the scanner. I could feel the excitement in the air, and a knowledge as to how much we could learn about the natural history of various diseases. I was also aware of the excitement in the air when I was at Hammersmith Hospital as a registrar  in Radiology. We were being taught tradition imaging – plain films, barium meals and enemas, and IVPs. I became quite good at TLAs (trans-lumbar aortograms), when a long needle was passed into the prone anaesthetised patient, and contrast injected to show the peripheral vessels. However, whilst I was learning the traditional techniques, Graeme Bydder, from the MRI Unit, used to join us for our lunchtime meetings and show us the recent scans hot off the printer. This was long before the days of digital transfer of images and PACS. I remember being excited by the images of NMR as it was called then, and realising how the neurosciences would be revolutionised.

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Bags of films for reporting. Once a common scene in reporting rooms

Imaging has utterly transformed both the practice of medicine, and also how we look at ourselves. It is all too easy to be cynical about the modern world and whist things may always improve major advances have been made. However, all of these changes were quite unpredictable when the NHS was set up, and it is a major achievement that these new imaging techniques have been introduced. Modern imaging is readily available for our patients, and has transformed untold numbers of lives. Godfrey Hounsfield was always very humbled by the many letters that he received from patients and relatives thanking him for his invention.


About Dr Adrian Thomas

Adrian Thomas is a radiologist, and visiting professor at Canterbury Christ Church University. He has been President of the Radiology Section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and of the British Society for the History of Medicine. He is the Honorary Historian to the British Institute of Radiology. Adrian has written extensively on the history of radiology writing many papers, books and articles. He is currently, with a colleague, writing a biography of the first woman radiologist and woman hospital physicist.  He has had a long-term interest in role development in radiography, and teaches postgraduate radiographers.

 

Has imaging become too effective?

Adrian Dixon

Professor Adrian Dixon has a worldwide reputation as an academic and a radiologist and has published extensively on body and musculoskeletal CT and MR imaging.

He will deliver the BIR Toshiba Mayneord Eponymous Lecture called “Has imaging become too effective?” at UKRC on 7 June 2016 at 13:00.

Read this fascinating interview with him and get a taster of this “not-to-be-missed” presentation.

You will be delivering the BIR Toshiba Lecture at UKRC this June. Your lecture is called “Has imaging become too effective?” Can you give us a “taster” of what you mean by this?

“You should say what you mean!” as the March Hare said in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.

What do people mean by “effective”? Effectiveness is only an appropriate term if qualified. Modern imaging certainly is effective at increasing the diagnostic confidence about a diagnosis and excluding certain diagnostic possibilities. It has taken a long while to prove that it is effective in saving lives. It has become so effective that, in many conditions, an image can be rendered to make the diagnosis obvious to the man in the street.

And clinicians now tend to refer for imaging without stopping to think! It has also become so effective in demonstrating probably innocuous lesions that the worried well can become even more of a hypochondriac! In some societies this can lead to over usage, excessive radiation exposure and increased costs.

If imaging is “too effective” – is radiology still a worthwhile career choice?

Yes! It is the most fascinating of all medical careers and every day a radiologist should see something that he or she has never quite seen before. The radiologist is the ultimate medical detective and cannot conceivably get bored. Indeed radiologists get reimbursed to solve crossword puzzles on elaborate play stations!

What have been the three biggest challenges for you in your career?

Radiologists have had to learn and relearn their skills at frequent intervals during their careers. Radiology will only survive as a specialty if the radiologist knows more about the images, the technical aspects and the interpretative pitfalls than their clinical colleagues.

Did you ever meet Godfrey Hounsfield (inventor of CT imaging) and what were your memories of him?

opening of scannerI did indeed meet Sir Godfrey on numerous occasions. His humility and “boffin style” of science greatly appealed. Some of the stories at the numerous events surrounding his memorial service were truly fascinating, including his inability to accept any machine which he could not understand without taking it to bits and then reassembling it!

 

Given the financial pressures on healthcare, will the required investment in the latest imaging technology be affordable?

Some of the developments in personalised medicine may be unaffordable. Generic contrast agents will continue to be used in large volumes. The cost of creating “one off” agents may prove unjustifiable.

Why would you encourage someone to join the BIR?

Because of the fun of interdisciplinary discussion and the pride of being a small part of the oldest radiological society!

Does spending more money on equipment mean a better health service?

I passionately believe that prompt access to imaging makes a major contribution to excellent healthcare. But that does not necessarily mean that every hospital has to have every machine at the top of the range. A rolling programme of equipment replacement is an essential part of delivering a high-quality radiological service.

The most difficult thing I’ve dealt with at work is…

An electrical power cut during the middle of a tricky adrenal CT-guided biopsy!

If Wilhelm Roentgen could time travel to Addenbrooke’s hospital, what would he be most impressed with?

The sheer size and the number of staff of the radiology department!

When its 2050, what will we say is the best innovation of the 21st century in healthcare?

Data mining and health statistics.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

All my previous bosses have influenced my career. I have learnt something from each of them. All of them stimulated me to ask the question “why are we doing things this way”? “Can it be done better”?

My proudest achievement is…

Helping to make the Addenbrooke’s Radiology department one of the most modern in the UK.

What advice would you pass on to your successor?

Never give up, try, try and try again and remember “the more you practice, the luckier you get”.

What is the best part of your job?

That I have been lucky to have had a succession of challenges in the various roles that I have held, all of which have kept me on my toes.

What is the worst part of your job?

Leaving salt of the earth friends as I have moved from role to role.

If you could go back 20 years and meet your former self, what advice would you give yourself?

Do not worry so much – it will all be alright on the night.

Adrian Dixon

Adrian Dixon

What might we be surprised to know about you?

That I support Everton Football Club.

How would you like to be remembered?

For influencing the careers of younger colleagues – hopefully to their benefit!

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Professor Dixon will deliver the BIR Toshiba Mayneord Eponymous Lecture called “Has imaging become too effective?” at UKRC on 7 June 2016 at 13:00.

Book your place at UKRC (early bird rate ends 15 April 2016)

 

Toshiba-leading-innovation-jpg-large Thank you to Toshiba for supporting the BIR Mayneord Eponymous Lecture