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vessel system and the highly sensitive detection of arteriosclerotic changes before the patient develops the first symptoms – without cardiac catherisation. Addressing additional important MRI applications would go beyond the scope of this text. In summary, MRI does have the potential

to become an outstanding screening test. One current application is in patients with a high risk of developing coronary heart disease, where a CT scanner is used to determine arteriosclerotic calcifications (cardiac calcium scoring). State-of-the-art and ultra-fast MRI or

spiral CT technology generates three- dimensional images of the body’s interior and the doctor can inspect an organ as if he was right within it or he can move through the organ, as with CT-based virtual colonoscopy. Further recent developments of hybrid

devices include PET/CT for the visualisation of metabolic diseases, the monitoring of oncological treatment, or for searching metastases, the latest development of the PET/MRI technology to improve cancer diagnosis, to define the best-possible treatment and follow-up, and other applications in early detection with a concurrent treatment option (minimally invasive surgery) will help to substantially reduce healthcare costs. Also the modern operating room (hybrid

operating room for interdisciplinary usage with CT and MRI, biplane angiography, surgical robot and anesthesia control desk) has long been a high-tech workplace, on which lives depend.

Nanotechnology opportunities Nanotechnology also offers unprecedented opportunities for the medicine of the future; the potential of these tiny particles and structures, with their diverse functional characteristics, is enormous. Revolutionary approaches for tumor therapy, new systems for the controlled release of active substances within the body, improved bone and tissue replacements, increased compatibility of implants due to their germicidal surface, catheters or hearing aids, highly sensitive organic chips and the application of nano-

‘High-tech devices, as such, cannot be good or bad – they are simply tools that work as well, or as badly, as those that operate them.’

Such examples illustrate the need for

doctors to work more efficiently to ensure their effectiveness in a high-tech medicine environment and to meet patients’ rising expectations. While countless patients benefit from

High resolution MRI images are revolutionising medicine.

technical advances in medicine, what remains of the medical profession if doctors develop to become mediators between patients and high-tech? And where is the benefit for patients of such new diagnostic and treatment options when their costs are prohibitively high? In the future, will the doctor be a highly-specialised medical technician, or turn into a health engineer? Who will then take care of the patients? The one thing that is certain is that only

very well qualified doctors will be allowed to apply these methods. Adequate qualifications cannot be acquired in a short space of time. Periods of five to seven years will still be required in order to allow the doctor to have a reasonable understanding of all organ systems. High-tech devices, as such, cannot be good

or bad – they are simply tools that work as well, or as badly, as those that operate them. In order to ensure the required

MRI, CT and PET can provide very detailed images of the inside of the body.

analytical methods in diagnostics are just a few examples. Tiny particles, no larger than a few thousandths of a millimeter in diameter, are about to change the world of medicine. In nanotechnology fiction is

becoming reality. For example, in the form of a mini-camera pill which can be easily swallowed by the patient. On its journey through the stomach and intestines, the camera is able to collect images. In a not too distant future, via a small incision below the chest, a caterpillar-like robot will be inserted into the body and joystick-controlled by the surgeon. Its movements will be traced via X- ray or magnetic probes. Such robots have already managed to implant contacts for pacemakers into the hearts of pigs. Next, the robot could be trained to remove diseased heart tissue.


competence in handling such technology and tools for the benefit of patients, we need certified centers and doctors that hold an OP License to carry out important tasks – to act as responsible mediators between high-tech apparatus on the one hand and the patients, seen as individuals, on the other, and integrate into therapeutic decision-making the patients’ personal responsibility to the patients’ benefit. On top of that, highly qualified biomedical engineers will be required to help optimise the proper use of the high-tech biomedical equipment.

Conclusion High technology solutions are making their way into hospitals and doctors’ practices at a breathtaking pace. New developments in genetic engineering, cancer therapy, and stem cell research, in addition to nano- developments for medical products or micro- submarines in pill form, are technologies that require interdisciplinary collaboration between engineers, computer scientists, physicists, physicians, and material scientists. Only with such teams in place will it be

possible to successfully meet the challenges in healthcare for the patients’ benefit.


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