Sunday, May 19, 2013


A sullen silence encapsulated the room. A while ago, the house was in the state of inquietude. Someone had been sent to call the family doctor; the others were busy getting home remedies to ease the pain. Pain killers had already been maxed and they did not seem to work. Amma gave in to the pain. At the age of sixty, she breathed her last that day and we never came to know what took her away.
Accurate diagnosis is as critical to medicine, as therapeutics. The field of diagnostics, though an interplay of cognitive forces, would be impeded but for the advances in imaging technologies.   Medical imaging has taken diagnostics to a whole new level. There are myriad modalities available for imaging today, right from radiography, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), fluoroscopy, angiography, CT (computerised tomography),  to PET (positron emission tomography) and so on. A crack in the rib or a heart blockage, it is possible to image them all. Management of the treatment regime and drug dosage for neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s has become easier due to the availability of contrast MRIs and PET scans which track the progression of the disease. Advances in molecular imaging technology have made cancer imaging possible which is being used to accurately diagnose, manage and treat many types of cancer. 
Let diseases alone, we all know how precious is an ultrasound image of her foetus to the pregnant mother whose patience has been to a test of nine months before she could have a glimpse of her baby. The contribution of imaging technologies to the field of medicine has been priceless.
Of course there was some serious science involved in the discovery of this blockbuster technology, which saw amalgamation of chemical structures, mathematical equations and physical laws. It took almost a century of efforts, two Nobel awardees and an arsenal of doctors that has measured up to the current day status of this technology. The field is still surging to new highs, even as I write this. Apollo hospitals offer the MRI-guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound which is a treatment for uterine fibroids. Recently they have also launched the G-Scan at Delhi which offers a revolutionary MRI platform for musculoskeletal applications. – (

                               (Image Courtsey –    (Image Courtsey –

It has made life easy for the doctors as well as patients by reducing the time which would be required, otherwise to treat the disease, and this brings me to Amma’s story.
Amma had stayed with our family for fifty years. Her anecdotes spanned two generations of the family. I have not even seen her and yet she remains a respected figure in the family till date and has her endearing silhouette etched in my mind. My grandmother told me the incidence of her death. She had been ill for quite a while. The doctors were unable to figure out the reason for her stomach pain and kept increasing the dosage of pain killers to alleviate the pain but we lost her on that unfortunate day as her illness went undiagnosed.
Thinking of it today, from a clinical perspective, a doctor could have enumerated “n” number of diagnoses for her pain based on the results of the scans and imaging, but the imaging procedures had not arrived in India, then. It was only in the 1990s that complete arrival of MRIs and CTs could be realised here. Even the first ultrasound machine arrived in India only in 1979 (source - I do not know if her condition could have been cured with the modern day health technologies but I just wish Amma had a chance at it.

1 comment:

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