Physics of Radiology

Author:  Anthony B. Wolbarst
ISBN:  9780944838952
Published:  1993 | 461 pp. | Hardcover



Health Physics (review of the second edition)  |  February 2006

The first edition of the Physics of Radiology appeared in 1993. In 2005, Wolbarst issued his second edition of a book that he says is meant largely for radiology residents and other physicians. The second edition is different from the first primarily in its chapter organization and the addition of co-authors in nearly 40% of the text's 60 chapters. The book contains a great deal of information on imaging systems and modalities found in small regional hospitals and large research institutions, from basic x-ray equipment to CT, ultrasound, PET, SPECT, and MRI. Five sections provide the framework for the book, including an introduction, scientific and technical bases, analog radiography, digital imaging, and radiation fundamentals. Specific to the health physics audience, chapters that appear later in the book speak to radiation safety, dosimetry, risk, and even radiological emergency response. The text is an excellent resource and would be quite useful in health-related science and engineering graduate level programs, most specifically medical physics. There are no end-of-chapter problem sets, but the text does contain exercises throughout most chapters, with solutions in the back.

The text contains a few chapters that seem to provide a bit too much detail. For example, there is a chapter on psychophysics of optical images; one on basic electronic circuits; and one on mass, motion, and force. It is understood that these topics are fundamental to radiology; however, it seems more appropriate that this material would be prerequisite to a course in the physics of radiology.

The author has more than 10 years experience with the first edition of his book and, hence, the input of many colleagues. However, this reviewer found the revised organization of the second edition to be quite confusing. For example, embedded in various sub-sections, there are six primary focus areas in the text, including x-ray imaging, ultrasound imaging, MRI, gamma ray imaging, computed tomography, and radiation dose. These sub-sections, however, are not logically placed throughout the text. There are hierarchical conflicts that result in equal levels being referred to as a chapter in one case (Chapter 16-"X-Ray Imaging III: Mapping Images on Film") and as a sub-section in another case (1st sub-section of Section III-"X-Ray Imaging IV: Creation of an X-Ray Beam," which then contains three chapters). To increase the confusion, the first focus area has its first chapter in the introduction, but the first chapter for each of four other focus areas is in the second sub-section of Section II. Conversely, the first chapter of the CT focus area does not appear until Chapter 38. It is assumed that the text is organized in this way to provide a course instructor with smooth-flowing content so that chapters can be followed sequentially. A simple fix to this confusion may be to eliminate the focus area delimiters of I, II, III, etc.

Wolbarst is employed by the EPA, currently on assignment as the Program Director for the Division of Applied Science and Technology at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. He holds a PhD in solid-state physics and was an NIH fellow in medical physics. He has served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and on the staff of the National Cancer Institute. Wolbarst is ABR certified and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Radiology at Georgetown Medical School.

Organizational confusion aside, Wolbarst's second edition of the Physics of Radiology appears to be a well-written, time-tested text that would be ideal for use in a radiology or medical physics course of study.

Reviewed by D. M. Hamby

Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics

Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR