The 21st century has brought many advances in diagnostic imaging, including
• Ability to observe events on a molecular level
• Ability to examine individual heartbeat characteristics
• Ability to study brain processes in great detail
Medicine is growing more personalized and precise, affecting diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of treatment effects. Many new capabilities have come from significant improvements in existing diagnostic imaging technologies including computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound.
New technologies are being developed to allow physicians to better monitor cancers, target drugs to individual cells, and provide greater surgical accuracy in treating heart disease. In most cases, these new technologies perform diagnostic imaging tasks more quickly, more precisely, and with greater safety.
CT Scanners: Less Noise, Lower Radiation Doses
Energy discriminating photon counting detectors, dynamic “bowtie” filters, and more advanced image reconstruction are just three of the newest technologies that could be used with CT scans in the future. Benefits, besides better imaging, include less electronic noise and reduced radiation doses to patients.
The so-called “dynamic bowtie” filter, used to decrease scatter contamination in CT scans, will reduce the number of photons that have to be counted by photon-counting scanners of the future. These scanners could have twice the spatial resolution of today’s clinical scanners. Results, according to Norbert Pelc, ScD, chair of Stanford University’s Department of Bioengineering, could be “clinical benefits so substantial they cannot be predicted,” plus significantly lower radiation doses to patients.
Use of a new generation, dual-source CT scanner at nine patient centers in the US and the Middle East has significantly reduced radiation exposure to patients compared to older single-source scanners or first generation dual-source scanners,according to Kayitha Chinnaiyan, MD, Director of Advanced Cardiac Imaging Research at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. Newer scanners reduced radiation exposure by 61%, with no significant difference in image quality for patients having CT scans for cardiopulmonary diseases.
The Future of MRIs
Magnetically labeling glucose with bursts of radio waves can allow the glucose to be detected by a standard MRI, and can prevent patients from having to ingest a radioactive isotope necessary for other types of scans. This technique, called glucoCEST, lets medical teams differentiate among various types of tumors more effectively, according to a research team at University College London. The technique has been used on mice to differentiate two types of human colorectal tumors, because different tumor types take up different amounts of glucose. Human studies have begun on patients with neck tumors, and it could be used for examining any organ with high glucose consumption, including the heart and brain.
Another MRI advance has to do with shortening the “echo time” during which signals are recorded during a scan sequence. New clinical research using ultra-short echo time, where the echo time is reduced from its typical 1 to 10 millisecond range to 10 to 50 microseconds creates new types of image contrasts that allow direct MRI imaging of tissues that traditionally couldn’t be seen on MRI, such as ligaments and tendons.
How Ultrasonography Is Changing
Ultrasound imaging is used in a range of examinations, and is also becoming more sophisticated. Miniaturization of equipment has extended the use of point of care ultrasound in a variety of clinical settings. A device called the Vscan, a battery-powered, handheld ultrasound introduced by GE in 2009 is considered by some to be “the stethoscope of the future” because of its portability and low cost compared to conventional ultrasound devices.
Advances in 3D ultrasound include adaptive processing algorithms to analyze each voxel (the 3D version of the pixel) to filter out artifacts and noise. Enhanced visualized structure also results, and this processing is increasingly being done in real time using sophisticated hardware and software. 3D and 4D ultrasound are also becoming more important in breast examination as questions have arisen about x-ray mammography in women with dense breast tissue. With 3D / 4D ultrasound, tumor location can be clearly shown from a scan that takes less than 15 minutes.
Get Advanced Radiology Services from SteleRAD
Diagnostic imaging is undergoing remarkable advances, many of which build upon already prevalent diagnostic imaging technologies including CT, MRI, and ultrasound. With these new technologies, clinicians should be able to get clearer images with better patient safety than with the current generation of diagnostic imaging equipment.
Owned and operated by board-certified radiologists, SteleRAD is a Florida radiology practice that brings customers over four decades of experience in providing thorough and prompt interpretations of radiological scans. SteleRAD is able to bring superior diagnostic imaging services to medical centers, physician groups, and hospitals across the country. To learn more on how SteleRAD can help your practice, contact us online or call us at 954-358-5250.