How Technology Is Revolutionizing the Radiology Industry

15 March 2020 - Collaborative Imaging
The radiology industry is undergoing a revolution thanks to developments in science and technology, from nanotech to artificial intelligence to new versions of functional MRI.
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Whether you get your news about radiology developments in bits and pieces randomly or allow yourself to periodically budget time for some serious deep dives into the literature, it’s easy to lose sight of developments in technology because of daily priorities at work. It’s quite easy for radiologists to become focused on the tasks at hand and the patients they are seeing and not give much time or attention to the technology that helps them do their job.

But radiologists will certainly want to keep tabs on innovations in science and technology that can affect they way they obtain and use imagery of patients. Learning about new discoveries or improvements in devices professionals rely on in radiology can lift your mood and give you a better sense of optimism about your career and the outcomes for your patients. Read on for examples of how technology is revolutionizing the radiology industry.

Nanocrystals

Safer and cheaper x-rays may soon be available, according to a report from Radiology Business, which noted that researchers at the Department of Chemistry at the National University of Singapore “have developed lead halide perovskite nanocrystals that are sensitive to x-ray irradiation. By using these nanocrystals with flat-panel x-ray imaging equipment, they found that it resulted in a new type of detector that can sense x-rays with approximately 400 less radiation than current healthcare providers use in standard practice.” It would be a boon to patients because scans would be less energetic and dangerous over the long term.

This technology is designed to not only work with lower radiation levels, it should allow rapid, “real-time” X-ray images. So, costs should go down while risk to patients decreases too.

Artificial Intelligence

It’s no secret that innovations in artificial intelligence are transforming large sections of the economy, from computerized customer service agents handling basic requests for information, to high-speed data mining and image comparison tasks that are well beyond the capacity of mere human radiologists. So, you may encounter a form of AI in your workplace one day that will help you in working with radiological images.

To that end, the Food and Drug Administration held a workshop in Feburary, 2020 at the NIH Main Campus in Bethesda, MD. The workshop brought attention to the fact that “applications of AI in radiological imaging include computer aided-detection and diagnosis software (CADe and CADx). CADe and CADx software analyze radiological images to suggest clinically relevant findings and aid diagnostic decisions.” The use of AI is particularly useful when time is of the essence: “Similarly, computer aided triage (CADt) software analyzes images to prioritize the review of images for patients with potentially time sensitive findings.”

Looking forward, radiologists should be intrigued to learn that “another area of growth is the use of AI to provide prescriptive guidance for the operator to acquire optimal images.” The idea is that AI applications in a clinical setting can help radiologists when using probes, to position them more effectively.

Diffusion Tensor Imaging

Radiologists will always be on the lookout for new ways to visualize their patients. Dr. Diego Jaramillo, who serves as Director of MRI at York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital as well as Professor of Radiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center specializes in pediatric imaging, as noted by a report from Columbia University. Jaramillo is examining growth plates at the end of bones, using an innovative form of MRI to better understand how bones grow and to tackle disorders and diseases that are related to growth.

To that end, he’s harnessing diffusion tensor imaging. “DTI is an MRI-based technique in which the movement of water through tissues is imaged, allowing a precise view of tissue structure without having to image at a microscopic level.” While DTI was established mainly for use in imaging brain tissue, Jaramillo realized this technology would be suitable to predict how bones grow.

Now Jaramillo plans to explore two new areas of research, involving the prediction of growth of children for the coming 12 months and then predicting their total growth potential, following patients for about 3 years with a longitudinal study. He anticipates doctors imaging children’s femurs to predict growth in the future instead of relying on X-rays of hands.

No Need for Contrast Agents in Brain Imaging

Researches at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., have created a new analytical imaging technology that is based on functional MRI, for use in detecting cerebral vascular injuries and disorders, with no need of contrast agents, according to Purdue. “Traditional imaging methods, including MRIs, calculate the cerebral circulation time using contrast agents, which are injected into the patient,” noted Purdue. “The measurement can only be made for a few seconds after the injection, but the new method will allow a continuous monitoring of the circulation time.”

The Purdue method involves tracking an “intrinsic blood-related MRI signal” traveling with the blood. Researchers relied on the signal as a biomarker to monitor and assess how blood flows in the patient. As a result, “the time delay between the intrinsic signals from the internal carotid artery and the internal jugular vein represents the cerebral circulation time. A prolonged time delay also indicates blood flow disturbance in the brain, possibly caused by a tumor, traumatic brain injury or other brain disorders or diseases.”

This new method is compatible with MRI scanners and other imaging systems, including near infrared spectroscopy. Purdue’s researchers are now interested in using the technology to examine the brains of football players suspected of having undergone head injuries on the playing field.

Staying Current on Radiological Technology and Science Innovations

Prudent radiologists will make it a priority to engage in continuing education, so they’ll know about changes in technology that could affect the way they produce diagnostic imagery. But if you only have limited time to look for new radiological innovations, you can give yourself a break by staying tuned to this blog. It’s a source you can rely on for updates on science, technology, regulations and other issues of concern to radiologists like you.

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