Chest 99; Say Ninety-nine

6 Dec

Chest 99; Say ninety-nine

This sequence of X-ray pictures has almost reached 100, in fact if we include the small Elements series it is quite a lot more than the century, but I’m satisfied with the present numbering system.

“Say ninety-nine” – a clinical technique known as vocal fremitus in which the vibrations of low frequency sounds like “Oh boy oh boy”, or “Ninety-nine” are transmitted through consolidated lung and is detectable on the surface by the physician’s hand. It is to detect areas of lung consolidation without using an X-ray or CT scan. I wonder how many physicians still percuss the chest, or palpate for fremitus these days? Personally I doubt many new doctors even know these techniques exist, other than as a quaint historical practice, though I may be doing them a disservice.

The photos layered in this picture were taken – with the exception of the chest X-ray – whilst on a short holiday on Magnetic Island off the East Coast of Australia. History says that Captain Cook’s compass went awry as he sailed past and he ascribed this to inherent magnetism of the island. They include a close-up from an oil painting in the apartment of fruit which lends the brush-stroke texture,blended with the photo of a tea-towel to impart the texture of canvas. The style of the picture was inspired by a well-known local painter whose studio I visited earlier in the day, he is one of those fantastic artists who can jab down his brush laden with paint and create an exquisite object in one stroke. What talent! I hope this has captured the spirit of his work.

The underlying X-ray was segmented, I removed the outline of the bones of the spine and warped them to make the white swirl, and the rest remains behind the layers emerging as a very abstract impression. It came from a child with pneumonia – exactly the kind of diagnosis that could be made clinically using vocal fremitus – Say ninety-nine!

8 Responses to “Chest 99; Say Ninety-nine”

  1. Green Cathedral of South Africa December 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Reblogged this on My Choice.

  2. t smith knowles December 7, 2013 at 5:21 am #


  3. Deanna Tennent Masterson December 7, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Really lovely feeling of movement in this image……I feel happy looking at it. You’re right, physicians don’t percuss the chest anymore…they send you off for an X-ray. I remember when they did, though, being from the dark ages.

    • Xraypics December 7, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Thankyou, I’m so pleased you like it, I am having it printed today and am looking forward to seeing it in tangible form. Yeah, doctors seem to trust their own examination skills so much less these days – perhaps it’s a matter of the increased medical litigation. I heard advertisements on TV in the US – “If doctors make a mistake WE MAKE THEM PAY!” The consequence is that they are continually covering their tracks. Cheers, Tony

  4. leecleland December 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    Beautiful image, love the tea towel texture and oh to have the ability to place a brush stroke on canvas or board and have it say something, that is a real talent. Though your images combine to give a lightness of life which makes me hope the child recovered.

    • Xraypics December 8, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      Thankyou Lee. unfortunately I have no idea if the child recovered since the images are de-identified and come from teaching files – they could be 20 years old! But like you I trust he/she did indeed recover. These days most cases of pneumonia do well. I had such fun constructing this picture, pulling the elements together whilst trying to remain faithful to the coarse brush-strokes of an oil painting. I can;t wait to see it printed in A1 size. Cheers, Tony

      • leecleland December 9, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

        A1, wow that should look fantastic, enjoy.

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