Advanced visualization looks to new diagnostic horizons

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Image courtesy of Terarecon  

CHICAGO, Nov. 29—Advanced visualization tools have made great strides in the past few years in assisting the practice of diagnostic image interpretation. Applications have bolstered image enhancement, rendering, segmentation, registration, fusion, modeling, and measurement, according to Richard Robb, PhD, who lectured at the 93rd annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). 

Richard Robb, PhD, the Scheller Professor in medical research and professor of biophysics and of computer science in the Mayo Medical School and director of the Mayo Biomedical Imaging Resource at the Mayo Foundation/Clinic in Rochester, Minn., delivered his insight into image processing technology.

Medical imaging in the 21st century requires collaboration, Robb said. “It takes teamwork to realize the promise of 21st century imaging,” he noted.

This team consists of clinicians from multiple specialties, researchers, engineers, physicists, software developers, regulatory bodies and vendors, he said.

Technologies that have seen recent utilization, which Robb cited as promising developments in advanced visualization include: integration, quantitation and guidance.

Integration tools have provided clinicians with the ability to perform volume image fusion such as structure to structure, structure to function and virtual to physical. In addition, they have enabled combination systems such as PET/CT and others as well as dual-energy systems

Quantitation tools are allowing enhanced differential diagnosis capabilities such as those for emphysema conducted with virtual bronchoscopy applications. This subset of advanced visualization software also is permitting pre-emptive screening, particularly in the deployment of virtual colonoscopy for colon cancer screening. Fracture risk analysis is another developing area of utilization, which Robb sees as useful in assessing the bone fracture risk for patients diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Image-guided intervention tools have recently proven efficacy in cardiac arrhythmia ablation, brain surgery for epilepsy, and the separation of conjoined twins.

The future of advanced visualization looks very promising, Robb said. He believes that new imaging modalities will be developed that will operate and function at the biochemical and molecular level. He foresees further developments in robotic-assisted medicine as well as intelligent instruments for clinicians. Lastly, he envisions a fusion of structures and functions over scale, from the micro to the macro, which will be able to be conducted in real time, providing the capability for minimally non-invasive, synchronous diagnosis and treatment.