The celebration of the International Day of Radiology on November 8 coincides with the anniversary of Wilhelm Röntgen’s discovery of x-rays in 1895. The International Day of Radiology promotes the role of medical imaging in healthcare.
Several IEC technical committees and their subcommittees prepare international standards for many of the systems and technologies used in medical imaging and for the performance and safe operation of imaging equipment and systems. For example, IEC TC 87 prepares international standards for equipment and systems in the domain of ultrasonics.
The activities of two of TC 62’s subcommittees focus on imaging equipment. The safety and performance of the equipment used in medical imaging, as in all other medical domains, is essential to the wellbeing of the patients and medical personnel operating it.
Medical imaging is currently divided into five main groups of systems, based on their modality:
• X-ray imaging
• CT (computed tomography)
• MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
• Nuclear imaging
Ultrasound imaging uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of internal organs, vessels and tissues. It is considered a safe form of medical imaging technology and is perhaps best known for its use in prenatal scans, which show images of a foetus in the mother’s womb.
CT imaging systems use X-ray images that are then processed by a computer to produce tomographic images or “slices” to obtain three dimensional views of internal organs. Nuclear imaging technologies are also used for tomography.
MRI systems use magnetic fields and radio waves to produce images of the body. Low-field MRI scanners use permanent magnets, making them the least expensive of these medical imaging technologies.
Mid- and high-field MRI scanners use superconducting magnets which need cooling at extremely low temperatures during operation. The benefits of MRI scans are lower risks to health and lower energy consumption than other technologies.
The remit of IEC TC 62: Electrical equipment in medical practice is to prepare international standards and other publications concerning electrical equipment, electrical systems and software used in healthcare and their effects on patients, operators, other persons and the environment. The activities of two of its SCs focus on imaging equipment.
The task of IEC SC 62B is to prepare international publications for safety and performance for all kind of medical diagnostic imaging equipment, as well as quality procedures to be applied during the life-time of imaging equipment. Included is also the development of related terminology, concepts, terms and definitions.
Although TC 87 prepares international standards for equipment and systems used in medical imaging, international standards that cover the safety aspects of these are the responsibility of SC 62B. MRI devices pose specific problems and require particular protective measures to be taken for patients with an active implantable medical device that may contain magnetic, electrically conductive or radio frequency-reactive components.
The work of SC 62C focuses on equipment for radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and radiation dosimetry. It includes the preparation of “Standards for the safety and performance of nuclear medicine equipment used for imaging”.
IEC standardization work makes a vital contribution to safety, but also consumer confidence and global trade. When they are adopted, international standards allow the companies manufacturing imaging and other medical devices to compete at the global level.