The next technological breakthroughs are aimed at improving the quality of images even more and reducing radiation in studies
Medical imaging has been closely related to professional medical practice for years now and it is key in the decision-making of professionals. Not surprisingly, most physicians consider it one of the most important breakthroughs in medicine of the last century. Nowadays it is difficult to imagine the work of cardiologists, oncologist, traumatologists, orthopaedic surgeons, etc. without medical imaging.
Technological advances in image acquisition (computed tomography, magnetic resonance and other techniques) and in software in recent years have been extraordinary and have caused an enormous impact on the diagnosis and follow-up of diseases.
One of the medical imaging techniques that has undergone the most development in recent years is computed tomography (CT).eMedica eVida® Vascular and Vascular Training (training solution for teaching and researching vascular surgery) software analyses medical images that come precisely from CT exams.
Long ago (1895) was the discovery of X-rays by the German engineer and physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. Thanks to digitisation and technological development, current medical imaging allows specialists to view a myriad of details for an earlier and more precise diagnosis of diseases. And the progress continues.
What advances will we see this year?
- Faster diagnostic image processing
Essential for the creation of diagnostic images with higher quality to make workflows faster. To this effect, Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), like those used in video game software, are being incorporated to provide more power where it is needed. The calculation of algorithms and reconstruction of images is much faster: under 6 minutes compared with 20-30 minutes of CPUs, the central units that process data in most computers.
Digital imaging, especially in 3D and 4D, must process a large amount of data very quickly, and the GPU offers the best possibilities for this.
- Expand 3D and 4D parameters
The goal is the same: to create better medical images in order to obtain more precise diagnoses. Software that increases the contrast of soft tissues and makes clearer 3D reconstructions.
Radiology is also progressing toward the next dimension: 4D (that is, 3D images in real time). Advances in ultrasound are laying the foundations of what will be the near future.
- 3D anatomical models
Imagine the value for surgeons to be able to see and touch the ‘model’ of an organ before undertaking a surgical intervention: knowing exactly what will be found. This is coming closer to becoming reality.
- Data beyond the image itself
Digital images are much more than images: they are sources of data with relevant information on hundreds of parameters, like, for example, the texture of a tumour. Through advanced computational methods, we can obtain information about this texture and then link these data empirically with different tumour genotypes. Research studies are now focused on learning more about these parameters, what they represent and how they are manifested in a given disease process.
- Less radiation and more contrast
Achieving a reduction in the radiation doses is another one of the great challenges in the short term. There are still many patients who are concerned about the ionising radiation that is received during a CT exam.
The new technique phase-contrast x-ray imaging will be the novel clinical imaging examination method to solve this problem, given its great potential for reducing radiation doses, although more time is needed to complete its development.
- Big data and data mining
Radiology opened the way toward the era of digital medicine.And it is foreseeable that now, in the big data era, it will set the pace again. Advances in bioinformatics extract the most information possible and convert it into new opportunities for patients in the form of earlier, more personalised and effective treatments.
Given the vast amount of data to be analysed in, for example, the detection and treatment of breast cancer (mammography, ultrasound, magnetic resonance, MAMMI-PET, CT, sentinel lymph node study, etc.), work is being done to prepare decision support systems (DSSs) that guide all professionals and facilitate the management ad interpretation of all that information.
In sum, the new technological developments are focused on making the following possible:
o Better-quality images.
o Earlier and more exact diagnoses.
o More comfortable and less invasive tests for patients. Many of the studies use ionising radiation with harmful effects. The goal is to reduce this radiation. According to WHO, every year throughout the world there are over 3,600 million diagnostic radiology tests, 37 million nuclear medicine tests and 7.5 million radiotherapy treatments.
And this is precisely the case for eVida® Vascular, the 3D imaging solution that we have developed at eMedica for the surgical planning of vascular surgeons and interventionist radiologists in the treatment of aortic aneurysms.
You can download the trial version here.