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The imaging revolution
  1. Adrian K Dixon
  1. Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Adrian K Dixon, Emeritus Professor of Radiology, Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; akd15{at}

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It is a great honour to be invited to submit an introduction to this special imaging issue of the Postgraduate Medical Journal. Like many medical students of the last few decades, the Editor probably first encountered Radiology when learning Anatomy—the extraordinary developments in imaging over the last 40 years now making Radiology indispensable for understanding the anatomy of the human body. In the same way, imaging has become totally indispensable for the practice of modern medicine. So much so, that the quality of any medical centre now relies heavily on well-organised high-quality radiology services. This brief article assesses how these changes have come about, how they have altered clinical management and finally some personal thoughts about the controversies posed and future practice.


Radiology is a very young discipline, only starting in 1895 with Wilhelm Roentgen’s remarkable discovery of the X-ray.1 It is intriguing that the iconic image of his wife’s hand showing the ring on her wedding finger was performed without any Ethical Committee permission; nor, I imagine, much in the way of informed consent! Such a monumental advance even raised the possibility of a hoax—seriously considered by some famous scientists of the time. Punch cartoonists of the prim and proper Victorian era revelled in the subject.

The advances in the early years largely revolved around traumatic and military applications—fractures and location of shrapnel fragments, and so on. But diagnostic advances proceeded apace with chest fluoroscopy becoming a key factor in the diagnosis and control of tuberculosis. Only a few of us are now old enough to remember the ‘old’ MMR (Mass Miniature Radiography rather than Mumps Measles and Rubella); this was one of the first screening techniques rolled out to the public. Soon radiologists were using contrast agents to identify all parts of the body in a …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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