RSNA 2011 Exceeds Expectations

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 - RSNA 2011
Source: RSNA

With another year of record-breaking attendance under its belt, the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) once again worked its magic on tens of thousands of radiology stakeholders. Although final attendance numbers were unavailable as of press time, pre-meeting estimates set the bar at nearly 60,000 attendees.

Below are excerpts from the top 10 educational sessions we attended. For complete conference coverage, visit and click on the RSNA 2011 tab.

1. Chang predicts PACS 3.0

Radiology is witnessing the maturation of digital image management and has entered a new phase, according to Paul J. Chang, MD, chair of radiology informatics at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Chang dubbed the next phase of digital image management as PACS 3.0, or "meaningful innovation for meaningful use." Image management, he said, needs to go beyond the walls of the enterprise and also recognize that the emphasis is no longer on images. Radiology needs to deliver a value proposition. Dashboards and scorecards , the primary product of business intelligence, play a significant role.

2. PET/MR + 7T MR represents next great leap for radiology

Mechanistic imaging, which leverages imaging to understand the pathophysiology of disease, will project the specialty of radiology another leap forward, said A. Gregory Sorensen, MD, co-director of the  Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and CEO of Siemens Healthcare USA.

Mechanistic imaging, which is not necessarily a functional, metabolic or molecular modality, could demonstrate the value of imaging and help physicians understand disease in a patient or population and how that disease might be treated. "Context becomes more important than the imaging technique."

3. Peering into the future of atherosclerosis imaging

With atherosclerosis-related diseases estimated to cost more than $500 billion in the U.S. in 2010, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of vascular disease are critical priorities. Existing and emerging imaging tools show great promise in the diagnosis of atherosclerosis, said Zahi A. Fayad, PhD, professor of radiology and cardiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Current tools offer a partial solution, Fayad said. MRI can be used to identify plaque burden. Diffusion-weighted MRI takes assessment one step farther and helps identify the composition of plaque, and dynamic-contrast enhanced MRI provides imaging data on the angiogenesis of inflammation.

FDG-PET offers another promising avenue, and researchers are examining the hybrid technique as a biomarker for measurement of inflammation. PET may be capable of predicting a subsequent atherosclerotic event, based on preliminary data from studies of cancer patients.

Farther into the future, cardiovascular nanotechnology could detect disease before a patient's health deteriorates.

4. Best practices for communicating dose risks to patients

"As the public's awareness of medical radiation has increased, so has radiologists' awareness of the importance and need for benefit and risk discussions. However, communicating this information in a comprehensive manner is challenging," said Mahadevappa Mahesh, PhD, chief physicist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Mahesh identified a series of common communication missteps for radiologists to avoid when communicating with patients, including: too much jargon; too much information; and too complicated. "Instead, keep the message short and simple, and placed in context."

Meanwhile, co-presenter G. Donald Frey, PhD, of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, noted that radiologists are not successfully communicating the benefits of radiation.

"We need to do a lot more to explain the benefits of CT. Considering only risk is one-dimensional and not of any benefit; we really need to be talking about the benefits and risks of radiation exposure."

5. Informatics will drive patient-centric radiology

"For radiologists, the goal of meaningful use is to have more patient-centric medical records, as opposed to department-centric medical records," said Keith J. Dreyer, DO, PhD, vice chairman of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "Even though we as radiologists like to think of ourselves as wired up, most of us can't access records from the provider down the street, so we aren't really wired in the way the federal government is directing us."