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The Development of Technology and Its Influence on Nuclear Medicine

by Tess Hughes

Evolution of man cartoon


      The integrated circuit or chip was commercially produced in 1961 and used in 'Third Generation Computers' by 1963. Because these computers were smaller and cheaper, they became obtainable for the small business or hospital, rather than only for government or research applications. Their cost and size still rendered them impractical for personal use, however.38

      Also in 1963, Kuhl and Edwards presented the first tomographic images from detectors mounted around a patient's head, but these were of poor quality and the technique was not widely accepted.
      In the same year, Alan M. Cormack, a nuclear physicist, developed mathematical algorithms to calculate internal attenuation values. This was also not acknowledged by the scientific community.

Alan Cormack - click to enlarge
Figure 1015
Alan Cormack
Diagram of gamma camera - click to enlarge.
Figure 11
Construction of a gamma camera.16

      By 1964 the gamma camera had been accepted and was being manufactured commercially. Marketing competition fuelled development.

      In 1965, Gordon Moore made a prediction that the number of components of an integrated circuit, would double every year for another decade. This would mean an amazing 65,000 components per chip by 1975. The complexity of the chip actually continued to double for 30 years until only recently, when it slowed to doubling about every 18 months.17

Gordon Moore - click to enlarge.
Figure 12
Gordon Moore17
Sir Godfrey Hounsfield - click to enlarge.
Figure 13
Sir Godfrey Hounsfield19

      Using computers, image reconstruction algorithms were developed for tomography by Godfrey N. Hounsfield in 1967. These took into account the effects of photon attenuation and scatter, and increased the target to background ratio. The technique became known as Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) and greatly improved images. Both Cormack and Hounsfield were awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.15 The computer technology of the time, however, still required many hours to process the image data.9 The significance of computers to imaging was very obvious despite their expense.

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