Same tech, new look

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Evan Godt, staff writer

Radiologists love technology. One only needs to spend a few minutes on the exhibition floor at RSNA to see all the glowing, glossy displays showcasing the latest in both imaging equipment and information technology to know this is the case.

But sometimes important advances can happen without a major new invention, but rather by looking from a different perspective at current technology, by repurposing existing tools.

We saw a few examples of this in the week’s top headlines. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., for example, are using graphics card technology, familiar to fans of the video game industry, and leveraging it to develop a technique to quickly and accurately calculate radiation exposure from CT scans. Currently, the most reliable measurements of dose to the human body come from the Monte Carlo calculation, but this calculation can take up to 10 hours on desktop PCs with standard CPUs. By running the calculation using graphics cards to create realistic 3D models of patients, accurate dose estimates might be made in as little as 60 seconds.

A Dutch study into the benefit of computer-aided detection (CAD) systems also showed how an existing technology can be used in a new, more effective way. Rather than the traditional CAD model, where automatic prompts alert users to abnormalities, researchers found that an interactive CAD system—where CAD marks are only displayed “on demand” for specific regions identified by the user—could improve interpretation of mammograms.

But before we celebrate technological gains too much, an article from the Journal of the American College of Radiology offers a little advice to radiologists. Commenting on the use of decision support tools to control imaging utilization, the article warns radiologists to make clear the value of their non-interpretive services, because if software is seen as an equal to a physician in curbing unnecessary testing, commoditization is sure to follow.

In other news, as Health Imaging editor Lisa Fratt pointed out last week, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and there were a couple of recent advancements in the fight against the disease. She spoke with Xuehong Zhang, MD, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, about his work in measuring blood hormones to predict breast cancer risk over a 20-year span. Meanwhile, German researchers announced the development of a CT technique that administers less radiation dose than mammography and could open the door for CT into the breast imaging arena.

Did any advances—using old technology or new—capture your attention this week? Let us know.


Evan Godt, staff writer