Researchers Use Gaming Technology to Create Better X-Rays

December 8, 2015 | Elizabeth Knowles

Photo credit: Screenshot of video from the RSNA

Gaming technology isn’t just for your living room anymore.

When patients have x-rays taken, they are subjected to a dose of radiation that is similar to what one might absorb over the course ten regular days. That in itself isn’t so bad for an adult, but according to the American Cancer Society, it can be harmful to children, whose growing bodies are particularly sensitive to radiation. Because we’re human, it frequently takes more than one x-ray to get it right and children in particular are prone to wiggling.

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have come up with a potential way to limit the number of images that need to be taken — using gaming technology. The Microsoft Kinect was originally launched for the Xbox as a means of playing games and controlling menus through hand gestures rather than a typical controller. It may not have really taken off in the gaming world, but it seems that its medical potential is huge.

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Their proprietary software that works with Microsoft Kinect can’t be used to take the x-rays or replace an x-ray machine, but what it can do is limit the number of necessary images. By measuring body part thickness and checking for motion and positioning, the factors that compromise image quality can be monitored in real-time before an x-ray is even taken.

In the video below, researchers are setting up the equipment for a wrist x-ray.


"Patients, technologists and radiologists want the best quality X-rays at the lowest dose possible without repeating images," said Steven Don, M.D., associate professor of radiology at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. "This technology is a tool to help achieve that goal. Patients will benefit from reduced radiation exposure and higher quality images to ensure diagnostic accuracy."

Researchers are awaiting feedback from radiologists on how to improve their technology before adapting it to the Kinect 2.0. "In the future, we hope to see this device, and other tools like it, installed on radiography equipment to aid technologists by identifying potential problems before they occur,” noted Don.

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