It was an incidental finding! What started out as a physics exploration in a cathode ray tube produced a glow not only within the precincts of academia but also laid the foundation for medical imaging, an integral part of the dispensation of healthcare today. The birth of this enigmatic electromagnetic wave christened ‘X” ray also ushered in a profession whose primary responsibility it was to employ the knowledge of this ray to produce images of the body to help identify and characterize diseases. This is radiography! Radiography is thus a branch of health care that deals with the usage of radiation in image production to facilitate diagnoses (diagnostic radiography) and also treatment of cancer (Radiotherapy). Since the discovery of X-ray by Wilheim Conrad Roentgen in November 1895, radiography has progressed from basic to advanced x ray imaging (CT) and further to the use of ultrasound, magnetic flux and positron emission in image production. Due to the intricate linkage with technology, radiography Is one of the fastest growing specialties in the dispensation of healthcare.
Aside the enigma surrounding its discovery, X-rays constitute a double edged sword. The benefits of X-rays are unequivocal nevertheless studies done amongst survivors of the Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl disasters have demonstrated some deleterious effects, notably cancer. Unlike light which is also a part of the electromagnetic spectrum, X-ray is invisible hence its presence can only be inferred from its effects. The relationship between x-ray and cancer is largely one of probability as such one cannot readily determine the dose of radiation that is harmful. The guiding principle is therefore that of caution, judicious use of radiation bearing in mind its effects and keeping doses as low as possible. The radiographer is thus the health professional trained to protect the patient and general public from the harmful effects of radiation but still produce an image that will aid diagnosis. We radiographers are the custodians of radiation protection.
The knowledge of radiography even amongst health professional leaves a lot to be desired. Radiographers are called x-ray operators, x-ray men women or technicians. From the ongoing discussion, it’s pretty obvious that these descriptors are overly simplistic and concrete and demonstrate a wretched dearth of understanding of the scope of the profession. An amusing allusion is to call a farmer a seed planter! The name Radiography is an amalgam of two words: radio denoting radiation and graph, the Greek root for writing. Radiography therefore literally implies writing with radiation!
Over the years radiography has progressed from the basics of training people on the job to take photographs of broken bones and chest xrays to formal training of persons in the ethics of medical practice, radiation protection, radiographic technique, patient management and equipment. It is a four year degree program offered currently by the University of Ghana with prototypes in University of Cape Coast, KNUST and the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) at different stages of completion.
The role of the radiographer in health delivery over the past century has undergone significant evolution with consultant radiographers now undertaking image interpretation, research and teaching. The future of the profession in Ghana still remains very bright with prospects in academia, research and advanced clinical practice.
Our moto is servitas humanis…. We serve humanity.
MR. Prince Rockson
Senior Radiographer (Head)
Department of Radiology COCOBOD, CocoaClinic
Email: [email protected]