Magnetic Resonance Imaging, not so long ago a diagnostic tool of
last resort, has become pervasive in the landscape of consumer
medicine; images of the forbidding tubes, with their promises of
revelation, surround us in commercials and on billboards.
Magnetic Appeal offers an in-depth exploration of the
science and culture of MRI, examining its development and emergence
as an imaging technology, its popular appeal and acceptance, and
its current use in health care.
Understood as modern and uncontroversial by health care
professionals and in public discourse, the importance of MRI-or its
supposed infallibility-has rarely been questioned. In Magnetic
Appeal, Kelly A. Joyce shows how MRI technology grew out of
serendipitous circumstances and was adopted for reasons having
little to do with patient safety or evidence of efficacy. Drawing
on interviews with physicians and MRI technologists, as well as
ethnographic research conducted at imaging sites and radiology
conferences, Joyce demonstrates that current beliefs about MRI draw
on cultural ideas about sight and technology and are reinforced by
health care policies and insurance reimbursement practices.
Moreover, her unsettling analysis of physicians' and technologists'
work practices lets readers consider that MRI scans do not reveal
the truth about the body as is popularly believed, nor do they
always lead to better outcomes for patients. Although clearly a
valuable medical technique, MRI technology cannot necessarily
deliver the health outcomes ascribed to it.
Magnetic Appeal also addresses broader questions about
the importance of medical imaging technologies in American culture
and medicine. These technologies, which include ultrasound, X-ray,
and MRI, are part of a larger trend in which visual representations
have become central to American health, identity, and social
Subjects: Health Sciences
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