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Friday, October 04, 2019

Saw My Own Heart Beating Today

As part of a series of tests to see why I have a persistent cough, I went in for an electrocardiogram today. But I think they also gave me an ultrasound, because the technician put a bunch of gel on my chest and jammed a wand into my ribs. I could see my heart beating and lungs working on his screen. Trippy.

The tech gave me quite a bruising with the wand, too. Ouch. On the other hand, cost to me=zero dollars, so hooray for public health care.

1 comment:

Jeff Shyluk said...

My doctor sent me for cardiac ultrasound images a while back. On the day I went, I felt terrible. If I got even worse, at least I was in a hospital - not that that was much of a comfort. Like you say, the technician was a sadist with the wand, but the images were incredible. I saw my own healthy heart beat in two and a half dimensions, and witnessed the blood flowing like mighty rivers through my chest. The wonder of that sight was exceeded only by the professional apathy displayed by the technician. Not that I should have expected witty conversation, the tech was busy and I was the forms she had to fill out made incarnate on a rickety hospital gurney.

Did you know the original ultrasound wand was a stylus that emitted a single beam, kind of like a laser pointer? The beam would be interrupted by bone and flesh, and that ray scatter would be displayed on an oscilloscope, like the kind you'd see in Plan 9 From Outer Space. The distance that the normal sine wave was deflected indicated the mass being probed by the ultrasound beam. The doctor would then interpret the single wiggly line as your heart or lungs or a blockage or whatever.

Today, ultrasound looks like a videogame, with computer-enhanced multi-dimensional images, doppler-tuned colours, and machine-learned motion analysis. The detail of the imagery is astounding. We live in amazing times, in a country with an amazing public health program.