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Tomography is imaging by sections or sectioning. A device used in tomography is called a tomograph, while the image produced is a tomogram. The method is used in medicine, archaeology, biology, and other sciences. In most cases it is based on the mathematical procedure called tomographic reconstruction. The word was derived from the Greek word tomos which means "a section", "a slice" or "a cutting". A tomography of several sections of the body is known as a polytomography.

Description

In conventional medical X-ray tomography, clinical staff make a sectional image through a body by moving an X-ray source and the film in opposite directions during the exposure. Consequently, structures in the focal plane appear sharper, while structures in other planes appear blurred. By modifying the direction and extent of the movement, operators can select different focal planes which contain the structures of interest. Before the advent of more modern computer-assisted techniques, this technique, ideated in the 1930s by the radiologist Alessandro Vallebona, proved useful in reducing the problem of superimposition of structures in projectional (shadow) radiography.

Modern tomography

More modern variations of tomography involve gathering projection data from multiple directions and feeding the data into a tomographic reconstruction software algorithm processed by a computer. Different types of signal acquisition can be used in similar calculation algorithms in order to create a tomographic image. With current 2005 technology, tomograms are derived using several different physical phenomena listed in the following table.

Physical phenomenon Type of tomograph
X-rays CT
gamma rays SPECT
electron-positron annihilation PET
electrons Electron tomography or 3D TEM
ions atom probe

Some recent advances rely on using simultaneously integrated physical phenomena, e.g. X-rays for both CT and angiography, combined CT/MRI and combined CT/PET.

The term volume imaging might subsume these technologies more accurately than the term tomography. However, in the majority of cases in clinical routine, staff request output from these procedures as 2-D slice images. As more and more clinical decisions come to depend on more advanced volume visualization techniques, the terms tomography/tomogram may go out of fashion.

Many different reconstruction algorithms exist. Most algorithms fall into one of two categories: filtered back projection (FBP) and iterative reconstruction (IR). These procedures give inexact results: they represent a compromise between accuracy and computation time required. FBP demands fewer computational resources, while IR generally produces fewer artifacts (errors in the reconstruction) at a higher computing cost.

Although MRI and ultrasound make cross sectional images they don't acquire data from different directions. In MRI spatial information is obtained by using magnetic fields. In ultrasound, spatial information is obtained simply by focusing and aiming a pulsed ultrasound beam.

Synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy

Recently a new technique called synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM) allows for detailed three dimensional scanning of fossils.

Types of tomography

See also


External links

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