CT Scans are a great tool to look inside the body, but in recent months the radiation levels that CT Scans expose patients to have been a concern. Researchers are now looking for ways to reduce the radiation risks using computer software and even video game processors.
Xun Jia and his group are based in University of California San Diego, and have actively been looking for solutions to reduce CT scan radiation. Jia's research was focused on cone beam scans, which can treat cancer, and used technology found in video game processors to find a solution.
Known as image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), a series of scans are performed during the patient's radiation therapy to make it easier to accurately target tumors and reduce radiation affects in nearby body areas. The radiation levels can be managed by taking fewer projections and the power level used for each scan, but the images can take longer to develop.
Jia's team developed an algorithm for graphic processing unit platforms, which process the image data in parallel, which shortens the processing time to just two minutes. GPUs were created to render video games, but Jia discovered a new application for them in CT image processing.
Dr. Cynthia McCollough, who managed research in reducting CT scan radiation at the Mayo Clinic, said her team's research showed that with a more sophisticated algorithm for analyzing images, the length of time the patient is in the scanner and the radiation intensity could be reduced.
Typically, less radiation means fuzzier, lower quality images. But the software the Mayo research group is using is 'smart': it evaluates the image and if there are body structures that don't change much from frame-to-frame they are considered 'static,' allowing the machines to focus on the anatomy that is changing. The result is sharp images with less overall radiation.
McCullough said her method has so far been tested on animals, but she hopes it can be used in clinics soon.
There are even more teams around the country working on addressing this concern with CT scans. Consult a medical imaging specialist to learn more, and to discuss both the safety and benefits associated with CT scans.