A high-contrast black-and-white image of your bones is an effective tool for detecting fractures or breaks. But after more than 120 years, the X-ray image is getting a remarkable update with colorful 3D images that reveal much more than just the bones inside you. These images will improve what a doctor can diagnose without opening you.
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The traditional approach to checking a patient's interior involves filling them up with X-rays. This electromagnetic radiation has a shorter wavelength than visible light, so it can pass easily through soft tissue, but it has more difficulty in passing through harder materials, such as bones. On the other side of your body, a sensor, or film, produces an image based on the intensity of the X-rays that pass through it, revealing what is inside you.
A New Zealand company called Mars Bioimaging has developed a new type of medical image scanner that works similarly but lends the technology developed for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to produce much more detailed results. The Medipix3 chip works similarly to the sensor of your digital camera but detects and counts the particles that reach each pixel when a shutter opens.
When used in the new scanner developed by Phil and Anthony Butler, from the universities of Canterbury and Otago, New Zealand, the Medipix3 chip, enhanced with customized data processing algorithms, can detect the change in wavelengths as X-rays go through different materials in the body. This allows the scanner to differentiate between bones, muscles, fat, liquids, and all other materials in the human body, while additional software uses this data to produce striking color images that allow a three-dimensional view of the body's interior.
So, while a doctor examines the images of your arm, looking for signs of fracture or fracture after a terrible fall, he can also look for other potentially dangerous medical conditions that may not be apparent in typical X-ray results. Smaller test versions of this scanner are already being used to study cancer, as well as bone and joint health in patients - but the technology will be useful in numerous other fields of medicine, from dentistry to brain surgery.
It will be years before the new Spectral CT scanner receives all the necessary releases and approvals before it can be used in hospitals and clinics. But it is well beyond the research stages at the moment, and clinical trials are expected to be conducted in New Zealand in the coming months.
Source: Andrew Liszewski para Gizmodo