Medical Body Scanning

Have you ever seen the characters in Star Trek take out a device that looks like a cell phone, run a quick scan, and immediately determine the health of the individual being scanned with absolute accuracy? Well, if you’ve ever wished that you could have that kind of medical service, your wish just might come true this century.

Primitive Medicine

Primitive medical scans have existed since the dawn of time. Often, these “scans” would be visual and physical examinations with dialogues along the lines of, “Is it bleeding? Yes? Then it’s probably not working right.”

Even as recently as the Civil War in the United States, a single gunshot wound or even a minor infection tended to mean certain death, in part because the only technology that doctors had at their disposal was their eyes, hands, and a cursory understanding of anatomy.

By 1977, however, the invention of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam made it possible to “see” inside the human body without dissecting it, meaning that living people could now be diagnosed and treated for countless previously undiagnosable ailments.

Refined, Researched, and Redesigned

Medical scans of today differ immensely from those of centuries and decades past. In fact, even MRI scans have been altered dramatically since their inception in the late ‘70s. Now, not only are they more powerful, they are also safer and more efficient.

A litany of other medical scanners have been invented in the past few decades as well, including computer tomography (CT), molecular imaging, and ultrasound examinations.

Molecular imaging technology, for example, enables healthcare professionals to “look” inside even the smallest portions of the human anatomy in order to accurately identify the source of illness in the patient’s body in a way that Civil War era fighters would have killed to learn for themselves.

This sort of technology not only makes it able to more easily target cancerous growths and tumors, but also genetic abnormalities, at least on a molecular level.

Body Scanning in Movies and Pop Culture

Two of the most widely known examples of films and literature that used advanced medical scanners to diagnose and treat patients are Star Trek and Star Wars. Both of these canons pioneered the science fiction and science fantasy genres in roughly equal ways.

Aboard the SS Enterprise, Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek was capable of identifying almost any terrestrial or extraterrestrial infection, ailment, or disorder in mere seconds with the help of handheld devices.

In Star Wars, if the characters didn’t happen to have a trained Jedi healer around, they were able to simply extend a handheld device toward the injured party, press a couple of buttons to initiate a scan, and immediately have detailed biological information about the creature’s species, the disease, an accurate prognosis, and any available treatments.


One of the fields that has seen the greatest technological advancements of all time is that of medicine. As each decade passes, more people are able to save more lives and improve the quality of life for the entirety of the human race.

Further Reading

For more information on various medical examination scans used today, check out this brief explanation of each.