QUANTITATIVE ANATOMY: POWER BEYOND THE IMAGES

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a frontier medical technology that, in contrast to the other computer-assisted technologies providing anatomical pictures, produces functional images. I argue that PET also opens up an avenue for shifting from images (as a tool for representation of biomedical data) back to analysis of measurements (as a tool for quantification of physiology). Admittedly, quantification of function requires structural constraints. I coined the emerging interpretational framework quantitative anatomy in an attempt to conceptualize the PET merger between measuring and imaging, the two competing means medicine uses to examine the human body. Anatomy justifies interpretations that fit the existing knowledge of a larger clinical audience, while statistical data possess an unexplored potential to introduce mathematical rigor in the evaluation of function, but are still a black box for the majority of clinicians. This epistemological change is being carried out by PET users in action as well as in discourse.

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