Doctors and Math
Date: 10/27/98 at 16:55:08 From: SAM Subject: How do doctors use math? I would like to have a math problem to show my Geometry class how doctors use math in real life. I would also like some examples of how doctors use math. Thanks for the help, Sam
Date: 10/27/98 at 20:22:05 From: Doctor Tom Subject: Re: How do doctors use math? Here are a few examples. 1) Neurologists who take EEGs (electro-encephalograms) are measuring brain voltages at various points in the brain to detect how the voltages surge around. There's normal wave motion, as well as all sorts of types of epilepsy and other problems that can be detected by this method. Unfortunately, the data, as they come out of the machine, are pretty noisy. Various mathematical "filters" must be applied to see the underlying wave phenomena. This is basically Fourier analysis on wave forms that shows how the geometry of the complex, noisy forms is composed of stong, underlying primitive waves. 2) Sometimes you can treat a cancer by irradiating it. Now if you just shine a powerful beam of radiation straight through the cancer, you'll kill it, but you'll also kill everything on both sides of it that the beam passes through. It's much better to have a bunch of beams crossing in 3 dimensions so that the stuff in each beam isn't killed since the beams are weak, but all the beams go through the cancer, so it really gets "toasted." 3) PET scans and NMR scans use many 1-dimensional scans of the body to reproduce 2-D and 3-D views. Radiologists have to do this all the time - use math to reconstruct a 3-D view from many 1-D views. - Doctor Tom, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
Date: 10/19/2001 at 19:06:10 From: Stephanie Subject: How do doctors use mathematics in their practices? Hi! I have to write a report about how doctors use math in their careers. It would helpful to have medicine dosage formulas or something like how surgeons decide how big they are going to make a cut in someone, to operate. I looked on lots of different Web sites and none of them could tell me specific information. Thank you for your help and your time!
Date: 10/19/2001 at 20:51:36 From: Doctor Tom Subject: Re: How do doctors use mathematics in their practices? Hi Stephanie, I'll just give you a couple of ideas. My wife is a physician, a neurologist working with patients with epilepsy. Every day she runs EEGs on the patients, where you hook electrodes to the heads and plot the (microscopic) voltage differences between various parts of the brain. If there are irregularities (caused by tumors, lesions, et cetera), there are irregularities in the electrical signals. She needs to take sums or differences of the voltages, and can apply various digital filters to the data to eliminate noise, or to eliminate a known signal from the rest to see if there are irregularities in what's left. The frequencies of the signals are interesting, but they come in a horrible mix, so the filters effectively do various mathematical transforms to the signals, such as Fourier transforms and many others. It's basically digital signal processing, but with 20 signals, all of which are related. Radiologists use even more math in related ways, but I don't have any direct experience, so I can't give you details, but it would be a good lead to follow up. The only example I know of for sure in this field is when the doctors use radiation for killing a cancerous tumor. If you just use one beam, it'll kill everything in your body in a straight line from the x-ray machine straight through, and that's not so good. So multiple beams (or moving beams) are used so that a little radiation goes through lots of paths, but it all hits the tumor, so the tumor gets totally "fried" and the other parts get a mild "sunburn". (Of course, I'm sure the docs don't say "fried" and "sunburn", but you get the idea.) Do you know any physicians? If so, ask them. Most people love to talk about their work. - Doctor Tom, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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