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We understand if you’re nervous about diagnostic imaging services. For some people, the fear of being enclosed in an MRI machine might make them want to not come in for their appointment. For others, big medical equipment and the complexity of how it works can be intimidating. Of course, many people are already nervous because they’re afraid of what the radiologist might find on the images.

As uncomfortable as coming to visit our medical imaging center might be, we’re here to offer you some good news: it could be much, much worse. Before the invention of medical imaging such as MRIs, ultrasounds, and DEXA, so many problems of the human body were simply unknown. If a person had a pain in their side, it could be a pulled muscle...or something considerably worse. Let’s take a look at the options people had before the advent of diagnostic imaging services.

Have Exploratory Surgery

If a doctor sends you to us for medical imaging, you might feel a twinge of nervousness...but not nearly as much as if they had said “our option is exploratory surgery.” That means they will perform a surgery just to find out what’s wrong. This is most commonly done in order to get at cancers that cannot be viewed with traditional diagnostic imaging tools.

We don’t have exact numbers, but we’d guess that MRIs and other imaging tools have reduced the need for exploratory surgery a hundredfold. But MRIs have been around for less than 50 years, and anything that couldn’t be seen with a traditional x-ray would probably require exploratory surgery just to see any masses or blockages inside the body.

Go back before x-rays and it gets even scarier. Anesthesia wasn’t in common use until the late 1850s, and even then it was mostly just available in big cities. (Interestingly, anesthesia existed at the time of the American Civil War but wasn’t available on the battlefield.) So if a doctor wanted to perform any sort of surgery before 1850, the process would be incredibly painful.

There’s one more amazing way in which medical imaging beats exploratory surgery: germs. Any type of surgery opens up the body for infection, which can be life-threatening. Before penicillin was discovered in 1928, people were as likely to die from the surgery as they were from the reason the surgery was being done in the first place.

Be Exposed To Too Many X-rays

When x-rays were discovered, they were thought to be completely safe to human tissue. Because of this, they were released at very high does, exponentially more than any you’d get today. A doctor would have the patient stand between himself and the x-ray machine and view the patient’s inside via a screen. The doctor and the patient were getting very high doses, and it wasn’t always possible to get a good look at what was going on in the body due to the low-resolution of the x-ray technology itself.

X-rays are still something that technicians have to be careful of, but today’s technology almost always means that the risks are worth it for the benefits gained. Thanks to vast advances in medical technology, namely digital images, the dosages of x-rays have been reduced exponentially.

Live With It...and Pray

We’re not knocking prayer. It’s long been known that people who pray have a better chance of coming through a life-threatening illness. And they often live longer.

But before medical imaging, prayer was the extent of what you could do. In most cases, you’d just have to live with whatever was causing you pain. People who had a bulge in their belly had no way of knowing if it was a hernia, cyst, tumor, or bowel blockage. If they were coughing, it could be cancer, black lung, asthma, or tuberculosis. They would simply have the medical problems and symptoms for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, doctors of the past were of little help. They didn’t have any better idea of what was going on in their patients’ bodies than anyone else did, and pre-medical imaging doctors would often treat many problems the same. There’s no end to the medical practices of the past that seem crazy to us today, but bloodletting, radium suppositories, and ordering diabetics to eat more sugar quickly come to mind.

Of course, when people are desperate, they’ll try anything. Which meant that many people would...

Get Swindled

As we’ve mentioned, people often had no idea what was wrong with them before diagnostic imaging services came along. So when a traveling salesman arrived in town with a ‘cureall for every lung condition,” many people were taken in by these snake oil salesmen. Before a reliable way of diagnosing the maladies of the interior of the body came along, desperate people would try just about anything since they often had no idea what was wrong.

Unfortunately, you still have to worry about getting swindled today. Most of the supplements that people take are completely worthless, as are many of the health claims they make. Before you start taking a supplement, do some research. Talk to your doctor; they’ll probably tell you that the only one really worth it is fish oil! You’ll find that most dietary supplements have absolutely no medical backing, and some of them can actually hurt you. Most of the time you’re just wasting your money.


What did most people do when they got some horrible disease that today could be diagnosed by a simple medical scan and easily treated? They simply died, much earlier than people of today who might have the same internal problems.

Medical Imaging Saves Lives!

Yes, you might be worried about getting your diagnostic imaging services performed. But isn’t it nice medical imaging exists so that you can get the treatment you need? If your doctor has told you to get a scan, click here to schedule an appointment. We look forward to seeing you!