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Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Xbox Video Game Tech Could Help Improve X-Ray Imaging, Reduce Radiation

02 December 2015

Since X-rays expose patients to harmful radiation, and the quality of the images can be affected by slight movements, researchers came up with a new approach to X-ray imaging that’s based on the Xbox video game system.

Blurred X-ray illustrates how movement can affect X-ray images and require that further images be taken. (Source: Steven Don)Blurred X-ray illustrates how movement can affect X-ray images and require that further images be taken. (Source: Steven Don)

Originally, Microsoft Kinect software was developed to allow individuals to play games hands-free, but scientists and other inventors have been adapting the Xbox technology for nongaming applications.

A team from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis used software developed for the Microsoft Kinect system and the adapted the hands-free technology to assist radiographers when taking X-rays.

The software, used with the Kinect system, can measure the thickness of body parts and check for motion, positioning and the X-ray field of view right before an image is taken, according to StevenDon, MD, associate professor of radiology at the university’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology.

If something is going to compromise image quality, real-time alerts can be sent to the techs. For example, “movement during an X-ray requires retakes, thereby increasing radiation exposure,” Don says.

“The goal is to produce high-quality X-ray images at a low radiation dose without repeating images,” says Don. “It sounds surprising to say that the Xbox gaming system could help us to improve medical imaging, but our study suggests that this is possible.”

The Xbox technology may help doctors produce high-quality X-rays with minimal radiation exposure. (Source: Steven Don)The Xbox technology may help doctors produce high-quality X-rays with minimal radiation exposure. (Source: Steven Don)

Since children are very sensitive to radiation and have different body sizes, the technology is intended to reduce the amount of time an X-ray would take, in effect, reducing the amount of radiation exposure.

Instead of using steel calipers to measure body-part thickness for X-rays, which can be time-consuming and intrusive, the researchers used the gaming software’s infrared sensor to measure body-part thickness – without ever having to touch the patient.

“Additionally, we use the optical camera to confirm the patient is properly positioned,” says Don.

Last year, Don and his team used Microsoft Kinect 1.0 technology with proprietary software to improve X-ray imaging. This year they will use newly received funding to continue research with the updated Microsoft Kinect 2.0 and receive feedback from radiological technologists to improve the software.



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