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Couch unit for EMI brain scanner, England, 1970-1971

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Patients would lie on this blue couch unit while the EMI brain scanner produced a computerised tomography (CT) scan of their brain. Developed in 1971 by EMI, detailed pictures of patients’ brains could be seen for the first time. Godfrey Hounsfield (1914-2004) invented the technique, which constructed a picture from measurements made by an X-ray source and detector rotating around the patient. Previously, X-rays could only image the brain after it had received hazardous injections of air or special liquids. The EMI brain scanner was the first to be adopted in substantial numbers for medicine. Today, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has taken over much of the work of CT scanning. This example was installed at Atkinson Morley's Hospital in Wimbledon, London, a specialist neuroscience hospital.

Object number:

1980-811 Pt1

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    Glossary: CT scanner

    A machine that performs a special form of X-ray examination. It fully rotates around the object to be scanned and the information is used to produce cross-sectional images by computer (a CT scan).

    Glossary: x-rays

    A wave of electromagnetic radiation that has high energy and short wavelength. It is able to pass through many materials, except those of high density such as metals or bones. Discovered in 1895 by William Roentgen.

    Glossary: MRI

    Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). A technique for producing high quality images of internal organs and tissues. MRI uses radio waves to achieve its results. It is particularly effective in detecting cancers.

    Glossary: CT

    A form of X-ray examination in which the X-ray source and detector (CT scanner) rotates around an object. Produces a cross-sectional images by computer (a CT scan). A higher radiation dose is used than with some conventional X-ray techniques, but the diagnostic information obtained is far greater. CT scanning is particularly useful for the head, chest, and abdomen.