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Chest 99; Say Ninety-nine

6 Dec
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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!

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