Looking Ahead

Envisioning a better future means improving on today. As you'll see in this month's cover story "The Next Horizon: Radiology's Crystal Ball," the next decade for radiology will see better focused and targeted imaging devices—building on 64-slice CT and beyond to 256-slice and optical imaging—and truly intuitive reading and image management tools.

Many of these devices are in the works today — and we're beginning to see inklings of smarter software that can think ahead and know the preference of the physician, even before he or she sits down to read a scan. Scanning and reading must get better as imaging study quantities, volumes and images per study continue to surge. Image distribution of 2D, 3D and even 4D is getting more widespread in location and volume via decentralization, as the Holy Grail of workflow efficiency rises and customization by facility and physician becomes crucial.

Decision-support solutions, structured reports and CAD will increase physician and department efficiency with insight gained by many. And radiologists will be skilled multi-taskers working in more streamlined, comfortable environments to help reduce the stress of increased workloads and decreased staff.

The future of breast imaging will bring 3D imaging via tomosynthesis, breast CT and digital mammography to hone in on that 20 percent of cancers evasive to today's mammography systems. Radiation oncology imaging will be refined through image-guided radiation therapy and intelligent automated target delineation and segmentation software to speed workflow and treatment, and increase accuracy. Image-guided adaptive radiation therapy will further adjust treatment plans on a daily or weekly basis.

Cardiac imaging's future will be multimodality for sure, shared by multidetector CT and MRI, radionuclide studies and fusion imaging such as PET/CT and CT/MR. The radiology and cardiology departments will continue to merge as the expert interpreters of images of the heart, as post-processing and workflow continue to evolve. But when it comes to molecular imaging, we start to hear words like "revolutionary." Molecular imaging, in combination with genetic screening, looks to significantly alter disease, and particularly cancer, detection and management — and help determine patients at risk while disease can still be controlled and even stopped, as well as execute more widespread, effective, personalized treatments.

All of these advances share greater speed, the insight of many users and the intuitiveness of fine-tuned tools that enable anytime, anywhere image access and treatment.