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Glasgow and Clinical Ultrasound

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Glasgow and Clinical Ultrasound

Not only is Glasgow the home of firsts in X-radiation imaging, it is also the home of the first clinical ultrasound. 

Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body and is now considered fundamental to antenatal care. Obstetrician and Fellow of the College, Ian Donald, developed the first ultrasound machine for medical diagnosis at the Glasgow Western Infirmary in the 1950s alongside engineer, Tom Brown, and designer, Dugald Cameron. 

Donald served as a medical officer in the RAF during the Second World War. This was when he became interested in sonar technology, which at the time was used to detect or communicate with objects underwater. After the war, he became more intrigued by the use of ultrasound during a tour of the Babcock and Wilcox factory in Renfrew. He discovered that ultrasound was being used to detect the strength of joints in steel plates and decided to test this technology in a clinical setting.  

One of the earliest scans was taken in 1968 by Dr Patricia Morley, a radiologist specialising in ultrasound at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow. Working with Professor Ian Donald, Dr Morley used an early Diasonograph ‘B’ scanner sited in the Radiology Department. Morley, along with colleague Dr Ellis Barnett, pioneered the use of clinical ultrasound as a diagnostic, which initially came up against much skepticism due to the difficulty of interpreting ultrasound scans. The two published many papers on clinical ultrasound and became the leading experts in the United Kingdom, training practitioners worldwide in the new imaging technique. 

In the following video Ian Donald can be seen demonstrating the workings of ultrasonic mechanism and its application in a clinical setting. The first case shows the diagnosis of an ovarian cyst in a female patient, whereas the second case demonstrates an ultraosund scan, or "sonogram", to examine an unborn baby in the womb.