Other things I miss

By C. Douglas Phillips, MD, FACR, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York–Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY
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 Dr. Phillips is a Professor of Radiology, Director of Head and Neck Imaging, at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York–Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. He is a member of the Applied Radiology Editorial Advisory Board.

I’ve been accused of being too serious over the past few dissertations, so I am going to rectify that. We have chatted about radiology and its progress, and things that we can faintly remember, or that we thought were good (and bad) about how we trained, and what this is all about. A few months ago, we discussed antiquated terms. Well, I got lots of response on those, and I heard from a number of you regarding a few words that were neglected. Never let it be said I don’t bow to my readers…

Alternator: Gather around, kids, and we will talk about the time when we held pieces of acetate up to the sun and were able to make diagnoses from the dancing gray hues we were presented with. And, giants walked the earth. Film. Everyone older than 45, let’s all sigh together… It could cut you bad. A paper cut was a mere nuisance compared to a film cut. Radiologists needed some efficient method to look at all those films. A big study might need 30 sheets of film. The alternator was NOT a means to charge your car battery. It was a motorized monstrosity that drove films into your view, hung on clear panels, with an annoying clear string on constantly breaking plastic clips. I never understood what exactly alternated. Well, except for the function of the device. In that regard, it tended to not work a lot. And jam. Those of you who think 5 minutes of downtime with PACS is bad have never seen a king-hell alternator crash, with panels off track, films behind the curtain, and the device making heinous metal sounds behind the panel when you mashed on the switch to move panels and attempt to work. Go out, and get lunch. See you back in a few hours.

Grease Pencil: Long before annotations on PACS, we had colored pencils that left permanent “radiologist tracks” on the films, called by a friend the “LHD” sign (LOOK HERE, DUMMY). Red for urgent bad stuff. Yellow for “hey, pay attention.” We did radiation targets with blue. I liked orange quite a lot. It was my personal marker. I saw a green one, once. White or black was used in some unimaginative areas. I’m not even sure you can buy those markers anymore. Okay, I take that back. Just looked online, and you can get them for marking up your PACS monitor. Remember the other name? China marker. And those ridiculous strings that exposed more wax to use, when the thing was worn down to a little nubbin. If you didn’t like one (multiple breaks from being thrown across the room), you could pull that string to infinity, and it became nonfunctional.

Xero vs. Film Mammography: This was, believe it or not, a hot topic. Both camps would look down their noses at the other. On my board exam, I was handed a xeromammogram, and thought of those topographical maps that you get before a protracted camping excursion. “We don’t do these at my institution.” “Tough.” What do you see?” I had to resist saying Piney Mountain. I’m sure that there are a few xeromammogram machines still around, used as paperweights.

So many more. We can hit this again, sometime. Keep enjoying life. Mahalo.

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Other things I miss.  Appl Radiol. 

March 30, 2012
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