24 January 2008

I Wish I'd Had This When I Worked in Emergency

High contrast X-rays that give more bone detail, and more soft tissue detail as well? I'll take it--and so would any other physician who ever worked through long busy ER nights. The ER doc (and all physicians) has to make quick decisions based on very limited information. Anything that makes the job easier is fine with me.
Swiss researchers have demonstrated the practicality of a new high-resolution x-ray imaging technique that reveals fine structures that are invisible using conventional techniques. Dark-field x-ray imaging can be used to generate highly detailed images of bones and to distinguish between substances that look identical in conventional x-ray images, such as explosives and cheese. The researchers are now investigating whether their approach might also increase the resolution of medical imaging techniques such as mammograms and computed-tomography (CT) scans.
Tech Review

CT scans work differently, but if they can get dark field x-ray to work with CT, it could speed up diagnosis of several types of potentially life-threatening emergencies.
"Small structures like micro-cracks show up nicely in these images because they scatter radiation quite a bit," says Pfeiffer. This suggests that the images could be useful for detecting osteoporosis or for finding flaws in mechanical structures such as turbines.

"Edges and boundaries are more clear in the dark-field images," says Elizabeth Brainerd, an evolutionary biologist at Brown University, who uses x-rays to study the biomechanics of bones. It can be difficult to distinguish small bones and joints in conventional x-rays. Brainerd agrees that dark-field images could be useful for detecting small fractures and bone spurs in patients, and she's excited about the possibility of extending Pfeiffer's technique to three-dimensional CT scans.

Better tools for better information, to make better decisions possible.

Image tip Next Energy


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