Diagnostic imaging

Imaging Modalities

Imaging for medical purposes involves the services of radiologists, radiographers, medical physicists and biomedical engineers working together as a team for maximum output. This ensures the production of high quality of radiological service with consequent improvement of health care service delivery.

Medical imaging services should be:
  • Developed as an integral part of national health care systems, according to the needs and social and economic structure of the country, region and area;
  • Regulated by governments in accordance with international standards;
  • Appropriate to the level of the health care system at which they are provided;
  • Appropriate to the therapeutic capabilities that are available.
Regardless of the type of equipment and procedures used, the following infrastructure is required:
  • Trained medical, technical and engineering staff;
  • Radiation protection measurements and regulations;
  • Reliable supplies of clean water, electric power, spare parts and consumables;
Requirements at the national level:
  • Government commitment and support;
  • National plan for diagnostic imaging services;
  • National radiation protection control authority;
  • National regulations on medical devices and radiation protection;
  • Specialist advisory groups;
  • Inventory and needs assessment;
  • Upgrade, repair and maintenance of existing facilities and establishment of new services, as appropriate;
  • National quality system.

Diagnostic imaging, especially X-ray based examinations and ultrasonography, is crucial in every medical setting and at all levels of heath care. In public health and preventive medicine as well as in curative medicine, effective decisions depend on correct diagnosis. Though medical-clinical judgment maybe sufficient in treating many conditions, the use of diagnostic imaging services is paramount in confirming, correctly assessing and documenting disease processes and also in judging the disease response to treatment.

The availability of increasing resources and newer, better imaging technology has seen the role of diagnostic imaging in health care and the frequency of radiological medical procedures increase considerably.

When is diagnostic imaging necessary?

The use of diagnostic imaging is justified when needed to exclude disease, to prove the existence of a pathological process needing treatment, or to follow the course of a disease already diagnosed and /or treated.

Planning diagnostic imaging services

Diagnostic imaging services should be developed as an integral part of national health care systems and be planned according to country, region or area needs, and the local social and economic structure.

Effective diagnostic imaging can reduce unneccessary procedures

Diagnostic imaging makes proper treatment possible. Without such examinations, it can be more difficult for clinicians to determine appropriate treatment. For example reports from some countries indicate that a significant portion of all abdominal surgical interventions ("explorative laparotomy") may have been avoided if simple diagnostic imaging services such as ultrasound had been available.

Contact information

World Health Organization
Medical Devices
20 Avenue Appia
1211, Geneva 27
Email: medicaldevices@who.int