PhysicsApplication in Medicine
PhysicsApplication in Medicine
Medicineis a broad field of study that focuses on the application of scienceto diagnose, prevent, and treat different illnesses. A successfuldevelopment of the therapeutic procedures and equipment used toaccomplish medical purposes require the use of theories, principles,and concepts from different fields of study, and physics is one ofthem. Although medical physics exist in many branches (includingimaging, radiology, radiation oncology, and nuclear medicine), thereare some overlaps in between the disciplines (Wayne State University,2016). This paper will focus on the application of physics inmedicine.
Theterm “medical physics” is used to refer to the application oftheories, concepts, and methodologies in the field of health care.Departments that focus on medical physics can be found in differenttypes of health care facilities (including hospitals) andinstitutions of higher learning, such as universities. The field ofmedical physics was started in the 1890s following the discovery ofX-ray as well as radioactivity machines (Wayne State University,2016). The main breakthrough in the field of medical physics was madeby a winner of Nobel Peace Prize, Wilhelm Conrad, who made a thoroughinvestigation of an x-ray of his wife’s hand at Wurzburg University(Wayne State University, 2016). Today, the field of medical physicalsis broad and it encompasses a wide range of branches, includingmagnetic resonance, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, computedtomography, and radiation therapy among others (Wayne StateUniversity, 2016).
Amedical physicist is a health care professional who specializephysics to address medical needs. Functions of a medical physicistcan be broadly classified into three groups, including research anddevelopment clinical service and consultation and teaching(American Association of Physicists in Medicine, 2016). Medicalphysicists who focus on the area of clinical services diagnose andtreat different diseases in consultation with other health careproviders, such as physicians. They play a critical role in the areasof diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy. In addition, medicalphysicists are given the responsibility of enhancing radiationsafety, especially in the health care facilities that use strongradiographic machines. Medical physicists who specialize in the fieldof research and development are expected to play several functions,including the design as well as the construction of radiotherapyequipment, treatment of cancer using laser and heat, calculation ofradiation absorption, and radiobiology (AAPM, 2016). The thirdfunction of a medical physicist is teaching, where those who haveattained higher levels of education get appointments withinstitutions of higher learning to train graduate and undergraduatestudents on different aspects of physical medicine, radiobiology, andbiophysics. However, some medical physicists are affiliated withinstitutions of learning that have their own health care facilities,which allow them to practice the functions of training and therapy atthe same time.
Clinicalaspects of medical physics
Theservices offered by medical physicists in a clinical setting take theform of a consultation between them and physicians. Most of theservices are responses to orders made by physicians who wish to dosome diagnosis on their clients (AAPM, 2016). For example, theprocess of planning for radiation therapy for cancer patientsrequires physicians to work together with physicists in order todecide whether an internal radiation or an external beam would beappropriate. They also collaborate with physicians to perform thetreatment procedures that require the use of radionuclides during theprocess of delineating the affected internal organs (AAPM, 2016).Apart from operating machines used to carry out diagnosis andtreatment, physicists play the function of reading the measurements,performing calculations, and determining significant physiologicalvariables. In some cases, physicists are expected to assistclinicians in controlling the quality of the imaging system,radiation hazards, and designing different radiation installations.
Theuse of medical physics
Medicalphysics is used in the health care sector in several ways. The mostsignificant uses include the diagnosis and treatment of differentdiseases. The breakthroughs made in medical physics have providedunique and effective solutions for treatment of killer diseases, suchas cancer (Wayne State University, 2016). Some of the keytechnologies are used to diagnose diseases include x-ray, mammogram,and fluoroscope. This field is also used to enhance security in thehealth care and research settings, where physicists apply theirskills and knowledge to ensure that radiations emitted by equipmentare within the required limits and they do not harm researchers.
Thearea of physics that deals with medical imaging is also known asintervention or diagnostic radiology. Imaging involves the productionof images of the entire or parts of human body for the purposes ofdiagnosing an illness (Ilyas, Bahaei, Matys, Yamamoto & Graves,2011). Images are produced following an interaction between humantissues and energy. Physicists use energy from different sources,including magnetic or electric fields, radiation, and acoustics. Thetype and amount of energy that is used should be able to interactwith human tissues at an atomic or molecular level in order toprovide clear images that can be utilized in the diagnosis as well asthe treatment of medical conditions. For example, the diagnosis ofcancer is performed using the amount of energy that can help thephysicist identify the exact location of a tumor. There are manymodalities that are currently being applied in the health caresector, but the most common ones include ultrasound imaging, x-rayimaging, optical imaging, and fluorescence.
Ultrasoundis an imaging modality that relies on sound waves of high-frequencyto provide images of inner parts of the body. Ultrasound is preferredby many health care professionals because it allows them to view theinner parts of the body in real-time, which makes it possible tomonitor the movement of the blood and body organs (Chan & Perlas,2015). Ultrasound is preferred to x-ray because it does not exposepatients to ionizing radiation. An image is produced by placing aprobe on the surface of the skin or a body opening. A thin layer ofgel is then applied to the skin in order to facilitate a smoothtransmission of ultrasound waves into the body. This technologyproduces images depending on the process of reflection of ultrasoundwaves off the structure of the body that is being targeted. Some ofthe common ultrasound procedures include breast ultrasound, Doppler,abdominal, fetal, ophthalmic, and echocardiogram. Each of theseprocedures is named after the section of the body or the type ofmedical condition that it is used to view.
Thisis a non-invasive modality that involves the use of infrared,ultraviolet, or the visible light to view the inner parts of thebody. This technology relies on the special features of photons toproduce detailed imaged of various parts of the body and organs,which makes it safer than the x-ray that utilizes ionizing radiations(Mahalati, GU & Kahn, 2013). Photons allow physicists to produceimages that show the details of small structures, such as moleculesand cells. There are different types of optical imaging techniquesthat are classified on the basis of the type of light and the levelof resolution that is required to produce clear images. Some of thecommon optic imaging procedures include endoscopy, photo-acoustic,optical coherence tomography, super-resolution, and diffuse opticaltomography. Optical imaging techniques are commonly used in viewingsoft tissues since each of them scatter and absorb light in differentways.
X-rayis a common and the most familiar type of imaging used in the healthcare sector. Images are produced by allowing electromagnetic wavesof a high frequency to go through the soft sections of the bodywithout being impeded. X-rays are produced in vacuum tubes in ahealth care setting, which is accomplished by bombarding the metaltarget with the high speed electrons (Ilyas etal,2011). A successful production of images is associated with theability of different tissues to absorb light at different rates(Ilyas etal,2011). For example, parts of the body (such as bones) that have ahigher content of calcium absorb x-rays more than tissues with ahigher content of fats. Consequently, parts with high calcium contentappear white on the film while those with fat content look gray. Theair absorbs x-rays the least, which make the lungs appear black onthe film. This technology is applied in the process of diagnosingdifferent medical conditions, such as broken bones and cancer.
Underfluorescence technology, images are produced when molecules known asfluorochromes, fluorosphores, or fluorescent dyes absorb light andthen emit energy in the second phase. The absorption of light energyfrom an external source results in the excitement of the molecules(Herman & Frohlich, 2015). The excitement of fluorescent dyes hasa short half-life that lasts for a few nanoseconds. During theexcitement state molecules tend to relax towards the vibration energylevel that is ranked the lowest. Some energy is lost during theexcitation phase, but it is released in the form of heat.Fluorescence emission results from relaxed-excited state. Light isemitted when the molecules fall from their initial excitement phaseto the ground state. The light that is emitted during the process ofdegradation from excitement to the ground state is referred to asfluorescence. This technology is currently employed in fluorescenceimage-guided surgery.
Apartfrom facilitating an accurate diagnosis of different diseases,principles of physics are applied in the treatment of illnesses. Manyphysicists have focused their minds, resources, and energy on thedevelopment of technology-based solutions for the treatment of theleading killer diseases, such as cancer (Ilyas etal,2011). The breakthrough that physicists have made in the field ofmedicine has made medical physics one of the most popular fields ofprofession in the health care sector. Some of the key areas thatindicate the successful application of physics in therapy includeultrasonic therapy, vibrational medicine, and laser treatment.
Thistype of therapy is a broad term that refers to any treatmentprocedure that involves the use of ultrasound to achieve some healingbenefits. The treatment modality has been in use since the 1940s, butit has gone numerous improvements over the years (Yildiz, Ozkan,Aktas, Kaysin & Badur, 2015). The ultrasound is applied directlyto human skin using a round-headed probe. An ultrasound gel has to beapplied on the surface of the skin in order to minimize friction andfacilitate transmission of ultrasonic waves. The treatment modalityis preferred because it is non-invasive, but still effective in thetreatment of tissues that are below the skin surface. It is highlyrecommended to patients who are uncomfortable with injections.Currently, there is a wide range of diseases that are treated usingthe ultrasound modality. These medical conditions include tendons,muscle spasm, joint swelling, and Peyronie’s disease (Yildiz etal,2015). The list of medical issues addressed using ultrasound provesthat the fact that it is one of the most common modalities used inphysical therapy. However, there are some complications associatedwith the administration of ultrasound therapy, which include thelocal acute infection, local malignancy, metal implants, and vascularabnormalities.
Thistechnology is one of the treatment modalities that are classified asenergy medicine. Vibrational medicine is founded on the premise thatthe molecular arrangement of any physical body is comprised of anetwork of interwoven fields of energy (Gerber, 2016). These networksrepresent a cellular framework that is nourished and organized bysubtle systems of energy that coordinate life-forces in a human body.In addition, scholars who support vibrational medicine hold thatthere exists a hierarchy of energy systems that play the role ofcoordinating electrophysiologic as well as hormonal functions withinthe body (Gerber, 2016). Therefore, vibrational medicine works on anassumption that a high vibrating energy that is absorbed into theaura has a cascade affecting the vibrational field that operates inthe human body. Healing is achieved when the health careprofessionals are able to target the energy centers that affectemotional, mental, and physical state of the patient. In most cases,vibrational medicine is used to increase the speed of the healingprocess of different muscle injuries (Gerber, 2016).
Thelight amplified by stimulated emission of radiation (LASER) is atherapeutic modality that is achieved through the enhancement of someof its properties. Laser follows all principles of the ordinarylight, including refraction, absorption, reflection, and transmission(Ilyas etal,2011). The medical value of laser light is obtained by using a deviceto control the amount of radiation. However, the quality of laser isdifferent from the ordinary light, which is confirmed by several ofits properties, including polarization, coherence, and monochromacity(Ilyas etal,2011). Most of the therapeutic effects of the laser light areassociated with the monochromacity. The therapeutic effect of laserlight is associated with the non-thermal absorption of the photons bycells. This enhances the processes of cellular reproduction andrepair by hastening the process of inflammation. Some of the medicalprocedures include the removal of kidney stones, treatment of cancersymptoms, and retina repair.
Physicsof material and mechanics
Thetwo concepts (materials and mechanics) are common in the field ofinfrastructural development, but their contribution in the field ofmedicine cannot be ignored. The concept of material physics is usedto describe the physical properties of the human body. The concept ofmechanics is used to describe the mechanical properties and behaviorof different components of the biological bodies and provideassistance in internal medicine surgery (Shaoxing, 2016). Mostimportantly, physics of material and mechanics has been used toexpand the human knowledge of different medical conditions anddevelop sophisticated devices utilized in the delivery health careservices. For example, mechanical theories are used to study bonefracture and teeth problems (Shaoxing, 2016). Experts in the field ofmechanics have developed useful devices, such as electronic sensorand electrode array equipment used in the treatment of brainproblems.
Physicsof instrumentation is a field that deals with the development as wellas the modification of mechanical and electronic equipment. The mainrole of physicists who specialize in the field of instrumentation isto measure and interpret experimental data (Ilyas etal,2011). Physicists in this category are required to comprehend theinteraction between different energy forms and matter. In most cases,specialists in the field of instrumentation are deployed inlaboratories, where the majority of mechanical as well as electronicinstruments are used for diagnosis and treatment.
Thisis a field of physics that deals with the properties and theapplication of electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic waves areproduced when an electric charge undergoes vibration (Shadrivov,Fedotov, Powell, Kivshar & Zheludev, 2011). This type ofvibration results in the development of a wave that is comprised ofboth a magnetic and electric components. The resultant wave has thecapacity to transport its energy across a vacuum. However, theenergy can also be transmitted through a material. The process ofenergy transmission through material requires it to be absorbed andre-emitted across atoms. Energy that has been absorbed causes theatoms to vibrate and create another electromagnetic wave that has anequal wavelength to the first one. The principles of electromagneticare applied in different medical equipment, such as x-ray.
Theterm neural engineering is used to refer to a discipline thatfacilitates the application of engineering techniques to replace,repair, understand, and enhance the key features of neurologicalsystems. Specialists in the field of neural engineering are equippedwith the skills that they need to solve different design problemsthat occur between non-living and living tissue constructs(Izhikevich, 2013). The field of neural engineering brings togetherthe theories, concepts, and principles of engineering, mathematics,neuroscience, and physics to the process of designing and developingcognitive computers, computer-brain interface systems, and neuralprosthetics (Izhikevich, 2013). By exploring how the systems work andcommunicate, scientists are able to develop computer that interfacebetween manmade technologies and neural tissues. Therefore, theprimary purpose of pursuing the study of neural engineering is togain knowledge that can lead to successful machine-brain interface.
Physicsis one of the branches of science that are widely applied in thefield of medicine. Most of the applications focus on the developmentof the therapeutic equipment and procedures. Although the discoveriesmade in the field of medicine with the help the principles of physicsare used to address many medical conditions, there appears to be somebias on diseases (such as cancer) that kill many people each year.Therefore, the application of physics in medicine has provided a lotof viable solutions to the most troubling medical issues. The futureof the application of physics in searching for solutions to medicalissues is bright, which is confirmed by the breakthroughs made in thefield of neural engineering.
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