Medical photography is basically used to keep the visual records of the accurate images and details that can later assist in monitoring and diagnosing a patient’s condition, i.e., the disease and the progress. It also holds great importance when it comes to teaching and doing research in the medical field. Plastic surgeons and dermatologists mostly use medical photography as they need to record the before and after results of the patient’s condition.
Before the medical photography can be performed, the patients go through a compulsory consent process to know that their photographs will be taken and how they will be used.
History of Photography in Medicine
As soon as the world knew about cameras and photography, their implication in the medical field didn’t take too long. The scientists found it amazing as the photographs allowed them to present their objective and what they saw in a patient through an image.
Medical photography was also a great relief for the illustrators who were asked to create an illustration only by descriptions or the interpretation by surgeons and physicians.
In 1840, the camera was first used for medical purposes. Alfred Francois Donne, a doctor in the Charite Hospital of Paris, used this medical photography technique to photograph the sections of teeth and bones. He created the daguerreotypes through the microscope. Donne later published engravings that were made from the photographs by his student Leon Foucault.
Later, Hugh Welch Diamond, a member of the Royal Photography Society, used photography as an efficient tool for several medicinal purposes, specifically in the field of mental illness. In 1852, Diamond used medical photography for recording the visual signs of insanity by taking pictures of the patients and organized all the pictures by symptoms. He also made a collection of facial expressions that could be identified based on muscular movement. However, he got help from Felix Nadar for making this catalog of 53 different facial expressions.
In 1878, a special medical photography unit was introduced by Charcot in the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. Charcot hired Albert Londe, a French photographer, to work under his supervision. He clicked medical photographs and worked on producing the new apparatus required for recording symptoms and signs.
Photographing the insides of the human body wasn’t a thing until 1883. Emil Behnke used a carbon arc lamp, reflectors, and lens to get photographs of the human vocal cords. In 1890, Walter Woodbury published the first “photogastroscope” that was used to take pictures of the interior of the stomach.
In the 1900s, medical photography became a proper and authentic professional field, and in 1931, a group of medical photographers came together at Yale University of the US and formed the Biological Photographic Association, now known as the BioCommunications Association Inc. (BCA)
Benefits of Medical Photography
Over time, medical photography has also advanced. Today, it is being used almost everywhere in the world. The benefits of medical photography are what make it so important in the medical field. Following are some major benefits of medical photography:
1. Better and More Authentic Diagnosis
Medical photography helps physicians, surgeons, and dermatologists study and understand the complications that their patients are suffering from. Medical photography and imaging are quite helpful when it comes to diagnosis. Moreover, it also enables them to have a better discussion with other doctors to make better decisions.
The process of medical photography or imaging is painless as most processes don’t need any special preparations. In major diseases, such as breast cancer or skin cancer, medical photography can be life-saving. Moreover, medical imaging technologies, such as ultrasound and X-ray, allow the doctors to look through the body and examine the bones, muscles, tendons, vessels, and other internal organs.
2. Helpful in Surgeries
Apparatus such as Surgical C-Arm machines have been quite beneficial for medical imaging, especially during complicated surgeries. Medical imaging techniques are used in medical fields such as vascular surgeries, traumatology, orthopedics, and cardiology for intra-operative photography.
High-resolution X-ray images also help in several surgeries as they allow the surgeons to monitor the patient’s progress during the surgery.
3. Safe and Effective
Medical photography and imaging is the safest way to diagnose and check the progress of several diseases. Manufacturers of medical photography keep finding ways to make it safer for the patients and easier to use for the physicians.
Moreover, with the development in technology, they are looking for ways to bring innovation to the accuracy of these apparatuses so that physicians can accurately diagnose their patients.
4. Affordable Health Care
An accurate diagnosis helps in affordable health care, as the doctors don’t make their patients go on with the wrong diagnosis or treatments. Proper diagnosis and treatment help in saving a lot of patients’ money and time.
5. Before and After Records
For dermatologists and plastic surgeons, medical photography is the easiest way to keep records of the progress and changes that their patients go through. It is also the easiest method to check whether the medications or processes dermatologists are using for their patients are even working or not.
Medical Photography Training and Education
Nowadays, medical photography is a proper profession. Medical photographers today require a professional degree to work as medical photographers. A medical photographer must have a good understanding of the medical sciences as well as the optical and photographic principles. Professional medical photographers are required to understand the technical requirements of this job to edit, output, and maintain the color balance of the images.
People who want to become professional medical photographers also need to study basic anatomy and physiology and have some interest in the sciences. This is important because it is impossible to understand medical terminologies without the knowledge of medical sciences. In addition, all medical photographers have to study the laws related to the privacy and copyrighting of the images.
Consent of Patient and the Related Issues
In the past, there have been some cases where medical photography was used in the wrong ways. To avoid these incidents, almost all the countries in the world passed consent and copyright laws for medical photographs. This way, the patients had all the rights over their medical photographs.
Today, before taking any medically important photographs, the patients are asked to fill out a consent form in which they are informed about the nature of images as well as how and when they will be used. The consent and copyright laws help in avoiding the racialization and sexualization of medical photographs. Thanks to these laws, patients feel it easy to have their photographs taken during medical procedures.
Medical photography has been around for over a century, and its importance in the medical field is undeniable. Today, most diseases are diagnosed through medical imaging, and medical photography is literally turning patients into survivors. When medical photography was not a thing, it was a hundred times harder to even know where the problem was in the human body, without which the cure was almost impossible. However, with the help of medical photography, doctors can now help patients in a better and more accurate way.